Arab League readmits Syria after 11 years as relations with Assad normalise

Published May 7, 2023
A general view shows the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League Headquarters, to discuss the Sudan and Syrian situations, in Cairo, Egypt, May 7. — Reuters
A general view shows the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League Headquarters, to discuss the Sudan and Syrian situations, in Cairo, Egypt, May 7. — Reuters

Arab League foreign ministers adopted a decision to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension on Sunday, a league spokesperson said, consolidating a regional push to normalise ties with President Bashar al-Assad.

The decision said Syria could resume its participation in Arab League meetings immediately, while calling for a resolution of the crisis resulting from Syria’s civil war, including the flight of refugees to neighbouring countries and drug smuggling across the region.

It was taken at a closed meeting of foreign ministers at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo, said Gamal Roshdy, spokesman for the Arab League’s secretary general.

While Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, have pushed for Syria and Assad’s rehabilitation, others, including Qatar, have remained opposed to full normalisation without a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Some have been keen to set conditions for Syria’s return, with Jordan’s foreign minister saying last week that the Arab League’s reacceptance of Syria would only be the start of “a very long and difficult and challenging process”.

Sunday’s decision said Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and the Arab League’s secretary general would form a ministerial contact group to liaise with the Syrian government and seek “step-by-step” solutions to the crisis.

Practical steps included continuing efforts to facilitate the delivery of aid in Syria, according to a copy of the decision seen by Reuters.

Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011 after a crackdown on street protests against Assad that led to a devastating civil war and many Arab states pulled their envoys out of Damascus.

Recently, Arab states have been trying to reach a consensus on whether to invite Assad to an Arab League summit on May 19 in Riyadh to discuss the pace of normalising ties and on what terms Syria could be allowed back.

Saudi Arabia long resisted restoring relations with Assad but said after its recent rapprochement with Iran — Syria’s key regional ally — that a new approach was needed with Damascus.

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