Syria’s regional ties must improve before it can rejoin Arab League, minister says

Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad says recent visits to Arab countries aimed to turn a new page in diplomatic ties

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Jeddah. Photo: Spa
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Syria must improve its regional relations before it can return to the Arab League, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has said.

He told Algeria International TV that his recent visits to Arab countries have aimed to turn a new page in diplomatic relations.

“The Arab League exists but then the differences within the Arab League will remain,” Mr Mekdad said.

“Syria has always believed in working with the Arab League in terms of joint co-operation that works with unifying the Arab stance on a number of issues.

“But Syria cannot accept being in a position where it’s responsible for the differences among the Arab world.”

He added: “So if Syria rejoining the Arab League helps in unifying the regional stance, then Syria does not mind.”

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 in protest over the government of President Bashar Al Assad's response to demonstrations in the country.

Algeria is one of the few Arab countries that did not cut off relations with Syria during the civil war that followed the 2011 uprising.

Mr Mekdad will be arriving in Tunisia on Monday on an official visit with the aim of improving bilateral relations.

Saudi Arabia hosts a meeting of foreign ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf Co-operation Council countries to discuss Syria's return to the Arab League in Jeddah. Photo: Spa

Tunisia is expected to formally raise its diplomatic representation in Syria and officially assign an ambassador to Damascus, President Kais Saied said earlier this month.

Tunisia — under Moncef Marzouki, who was president at the time — severed diplomatic relations with Damascus in 2012 after the start of Syria's civil war.

A group of regional leaders who met in Saudi Arabia pledged on Saturday to continue talks to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict, but stopped short of endorsing its return to the Arab League. The meeting included top diplomats from Gulf countries as well as from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Days before that regional meeting in Saudi Arabia, Mr Mekdad also paid an official visit to Jeddah, the first such trip by a Syrian government official since 2011.

Although the 22-nation Arab League makes decisions by simple majority, a unanimous vote is what the kingdom will be hoping for as it hosts the organisation's next summit in Riyadh on May 19.

Updated: April 17, 2023, 3:53 PM