Bashar Assad landed in Saudi Arabia Thursday to take part in a regional summit anticipated to seal Syria’s reintegration into the Arab fold, marking his first journey to the oil-rich kingdom because the begin of the nation’s civil warfare in 20211.
Assad’s attendance on the Arab League summit, which begins Friday, is a significant step in normalizing relations following a 12-year suspension which noticed the remoted chief flip towards non-Arab allies Iran and Russia to keep up his grip on energy.
The 22-member league, which is convening within the Saudi metropolis of Jeddah, just lately reinstated Syria and is now poised to welcome Assad, considered as a regional pariah, again into its ranks. Assad was formally invited to attend the summit final week.
He appeared relaxed and cheerful as he descended onto the tarmac, the place he was greeted by Prince Badr bin Sultan, deputy governor of the shrine metropolis Mecca, together with Arab League Secretary-Basic Ahmed Aboul Gheit and a number of other native officers.
It was not instantly clear if Assad will meet a number of the Arab leaders attending Friday’s summit. Throughout Syria’s battle, Assad solely visited Russia and Iran and over the previous two years, he went to Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Saudi Arabia was previously the important thing backer of armed opposition teams making an attempt to overthrow Assad. Nonetheless, in current months, Riyadh has known as for dialogue to finish the battle that has killed half one million individuals and displaced half of Syria’s pre-war inhabitants.
Whereas the entrance traces have largely quietened, massive components of the nation’s north stay exterior authorities management, and no political answer has but been reached to the battle. Assad’s troops have been supported by Russia and Iran.
Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia had been turbulent since Assad took workplace in 2000, following the demise of his late father and former president, Hafaz Assad. The 2 nations minimize relations in 2012, on the top of Syria’s battle. Final week they agreed on reopening their embassies.
In April, Syrian International Minister Faisal Mekdad visited Riyadh and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, visited Damascus and met with Assad. Mekdad additionally took half within the Arab international ministers’ assembly in Jeddah on Wednesday forward of the summit.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pushing for peace within the area and over the previous months, Riyadh has improved its relations with Iran, restored ties with Syria, and is ending the dominion’s yearlong warfare in Yemen. Iran, a primary backer of Assad within the nation’s battle, signed an settlement in China in March to renew relations with Saudi Arabia.
The renewed Saudi-Iran ties are anticipated to have optimistic results on Center East nations the place the 2 help rival teams.
Nonetheless, investments in war-torn Syria are unlikely as crippling Western sanctions in opposition to the Assad regime stay in place and will forestall oil-rich Arab nations from speeding to launch reconstruction funds.
Washington has been strongly against the normalization of relations with Assad, saying an answer to Syria’s battle primarily based on U.N. Safety Council resolutions ought to occur first.
Diplomatic contacts intensified between Damascus and Arab nations following the Feb. 6, earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria killing over 50,000 individuals, together with over 6,000 in Syria.
Along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have additionally renewed ties with Damascus, following normalization efforts from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain years in the past.
Nonetheless, Kuwait, Morocco, and Qatar stay against normalizing relations with Syria and Qatar continues to be a key backer of Syrian opposition teams preventing Assad.