Syria joins pre-Arab League session in Saudi Arabia

Damascus returned to the group this month

Nayef Al Sudairi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan, gives Syrian President Bashar Al Assad an invitation from King Salman to attend the 32nd session of the Arab League in Jeddah on May 19. Photo: Saudi embassy in Jordan
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A Syrian official participated in a preparatory session on Monday before the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia, ending more than a decade of exile from the group.

It is the first time Syrian officials took part in any type of Arab League activity since Damascus was suspended from the body in November 2011 following its repression of anti-government protesters.

“I take this opportunity to welcome the Syrian Arab Republic to the League of Arab States,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan told the meeting, which was broadcast live by state television channel Al Ekhbariya.

Mr Al Jadaan said he was “looking forward to working with everyone to achieve what we aspire to”, as the camera panned to the Syrian delegation.

This month, the Arab League officially acknowledged the Syrian government's return to the fold.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has invited President Bashar Al Assad to attend Friday's summit in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, which would be his first since the 2010 meeting in Libya.

Regional capitals have gradually been accepting Mr Al Assad, who has held on to power and recovered lost territory with the support of Iran and Russia.

Arab League grants Syria conditional return

Arab League grants Syria conditional return

The UAE re-established ties with Syria in 2018 and has worked hard to reintegrate Damascus.

Diplomatic activity picked up after a deadly earthquake struck Syria and Turkey on February 6.

A decision in March by Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume ties has also shifted the regional political landscape.

Riyadh, which cut ties with Mr Al Assad's government in 2012, confirmed last week that work would resume at the two countries' diplomatic missions.

But while Syria's front lines have mostly quietened, large parts of the north remain outside of government control, and no political solution to the conflict is in sight.

Senior diplomats from nine Arab countries discussed the Syria crisis in Saudi Arabia last month, and five regional foreign ministers, including Syria's, met in Jordan on May 1.

Not every country in the region has been quick to mend ties with Mr Al Assad.

Qatar said this month it would not normalise relations with Damascus but said this would not be “an obstacle” to Arab League reintegration.

Updated: May 15, 2023, 12:05 PM