CAIRO: The Arab League on Sunday has re-admitted Syria’s regime, ending a more than decade-long suspension and securing President Bashar Al-Assad’s return to the Arab fold after years of isolation.
Government delegations from Syria “will resume their participation in Arab League meetings” from Sunday, said a statement after a unanimous decision by the group’s foreign ministers.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan participated in the ministerial meeting held at the league’s headquarters in Cairo.
The ministers “consulted and exchanged views on the efforts made to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that ends its repercussions and preserves Syria’s unity, security, stability, and Arab identity; returns it to its Arab surroundings, to achieve the good of its brotherly people,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a televised statement that the decision would allow Assad to take part in the group’s upcoming May 19 summit. It said it was part of a gradual process of resolving the conflict.
“This doesn’t mean that the Syria crisis has been resolved, on the contrary,” he said. “But it allows the Arab (states) for the first time in years to communicate with the Syrian government to discuss all the problems.”
Aboul Gheit also said restoring Syria’s membership did not mean all Arab countries had individual normalized relations with Damascus.
Syria’s return to the body was “the beginning ... not the end of the issue,” he added, noting that it was for individual countries to decide whether to resume ties with Damascus.
The council of the League of Arab States welcomed the Arab statements issued by the Jeddah meeting on Syria on April 14 and the Amman meeting on Syria on May 1, 2023.
The council also decided to form a ministerial committee consisting of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the league secretary-general to follow up on the implementation of the Amman Declaration, which seeks a “step-by-step” resolution to the Syrian crisis and to continue direct dialogue with the regime.
Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous said on Sunday that Syria had been the victim of “misinformation and distortion campaigns launched by our enemies” for 12 years.
He said Sunday’s consultations reflected the “prestigious position” Syria holds regionally and internationally.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry called for “Arab cooperation,” and “an effective and constructive Arab approach... based on dialogue, mutual respect and common Arab interests.”
Assad last attended an Arab League summit in 2010. Opposition leaders attended the group’s summit in Doha in 2013, sparking a furious reaction from Damascus.
“Syria’s regional isolation is officially broken,” analyst Fabrice Balanche said, calling Sunday’s decision a “diplomatic victory” for Assad.
In April, Prince Faisal made the first visit to Damascus by an official from Saudi Arabia since the start of the war, days after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad visited the Kingdom, also on the first such trip.