Saudi Arabia appoints first ambassador to Damascus in more than a decade

The appointment is the latest move in Arab normalisation with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad meet before the 2023 Arab League summit in Jeddah. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia appointed a new ambassador to Syria on Sunday, official media said, the latest move in Arab rapprochement with President Bashar Al Assad that has been facing obstacles.

The new ambassador to Syria will be Faisal Al Mujfel, the official Saudi news agency SPA said.

Mr Al Mujfel hopes to “consolidate the bonds of bilateral relations between the two countries”, the agency reported.

Riyadh was at the forefront of an Arab drive last year to rebuild ties with Mr Al Assad, which were mostly severed after the authorities used force to suppress the peaceful revolt against his rule in 2011. By the end of the year the revolt militarised and Syria was in civil war.

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012, and reopened it this year.

The Arab rapprochement with Damascus has had Russian support but no US endorsement. Another major obstacle to better ties has been narcotics flows from border areas controlled by the Syrian army and pro-Iranian militias.

Over the past six years, Jordan has become a main conduit for drugs flowing into Saudi Arabia, particularly the amphetamine Captagon. Arab officials say Captagon is primarily sourced from areas in southern Syria under the control of Mr Al Assad's forces.

Halting narcotics flows has been one of the main objectives of the region-wide drive for normalisation with Mr Al Assad, who was invited to an Arab League summit in Jeddah in May last year.

But there has been no significant Gulf financial flows into the reconstruction of the war ridden country.

Mr Al Assad has denied that his country has anything to do with the narcotics business, blaming it on unnamed neighbouring countries.

Jordan has boosted security and surveillance on the border with southern Syria, with the help of the US and other western allies.

Authorities in Amman have not given any figures on the incoming drug volumes or detailed how much is being transported to Saudi Arabia, widely seen as the main market for Captagon.

Updated: May 27, 2024, 2:31 PM