Arab League said likely to readmit Syria in 2019 amid Assad diplomatic flurry
search

Arab League said likely to readmit Syria in 2019 amid Assad diplomatic flurry

US pressuring Cairo and Riyadh not to hold a vote, but even rivals of Iran-backed regime are reportedly seeking to improve ties as Syrian civil war winds down

This picture taken on September 11, 2018 shows a general view of a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers at the organization's headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
This picture taken on September 11, 2018 shows a general view of a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers at the organization's headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

There is a growing consensus among Arab League countries that Syria should be readmitted to the bloc of nations, a report said Wednesday, as Bashar Assad’s regime strengthens diplomatic ties with former allies after declaring victory in a civil war that has left the country in ruins.

The bloc, which currently consists of 22 countries, is likely hold a vote during 2019 on welcoming Syria back after it was expelled in 2011 over brutal repression of protests, The Guardian reported.

Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir last week became the first Arab League leader to visit Syria since civil war erupted there nearly eight years ago.

With the war in Syria winding down in favor of Assad as his troops recapture key cities and population centers, some Arab officials have expressed interest in exploring the restoration of ties.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, meets with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018 in Damascus. (SANA via AP)

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League soon after war broke out in 2011. Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned Assad for using overwhelming military force and failing to negotiate with the opposition.

But now even rivals of the Iran- and Russia-backed regime of Assad, such as Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates, are said to be improving their ties with Damascus — part of a new strategy with the aim of reducing Tehran’s influence.

However, the United States has been pressuring Egypt and Saudi Arabia to refrain from calling a vote on returning Assad to the roster of Arab world leaders, the report said.

There have reportedly been calls in Egyptian and Gulf media to reinstate Syria, and that stance was earlier this month supported by the Arab Parliament, an Arab League body.

Additionally, the United Arab Emirates’ embassy in Damascus is said to have seen increasing traffic, with workers and officials seen entering the building and the removal of barbed wire and concrete barriers at the entrance.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with the Greek Kathimerini newspaper, in Damascus, Syria, in this photo released May 10, 2018. (SANA via AP)

But such a move isn’t likely to be accepted by Western nations. An unnamed European diplomat told the British newspaper that “there’s no credible, genuine settlement process under way yet in Syria, so fundamentally there’s still no incentive for reconciliation with the regime.”

In October, Assad told a little-known Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a “major understanding” with Arab states after years of hostility. He did not name the Arab countries in the interview, which was his first with a Gulf paper since the war erupted, but he said Arab and Western delegations had begun visiting Syria to prepare for the reopening of diplomatic and other missions.

The interview came on the heels of a surprisingly warm meeting between the Syrian foreign minister and his Bahraini counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September in New York. The meeting turned heads because it featured hugs between the two ministers.

The encounter raised questions about whether the Gulf countries, most of them sworn enemies of Assad ally Iran, are reconsidering their relations with Syria.

AP contributed to this report.

read more:
comments
more less