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KSA to invite Syria’s Bashar to Arab League summit

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan will travel to Damascus soon to convey a formal invitation

By Agencies
April 03, 2023
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (left) and Syria President Bashar al-Assad. — AFP
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (left) and Syria President Bashar al-Assad. — AFP

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is planning to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit that Riyadh is hosting in May, three sources familiar with the plans said, a move that would formally end Syria’s regional isolation.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will travel to Damascus in the coming weeks to hand Assad a formal invitation to attend the summit scheduled for May 19, two of the sources said.

The Saudi government’s communication office and the foreign ministries of both countries did not respond to requests for comments.

Gamal Roshdy, the spokesperson for the Arab League secretary general, said the organisation is not privy to every move on the bilateral level between Arab countries.

“We are not supposed to be informed in advance about the assumed visit,” he added.

Assad’s attendance at an Arab League summit would mark the most significant development in his rehabilitation within the Arab world since 2011 when Syria was suspended from the organisation. Assad had been boycotted by many Western and Arab states over his brutal crackdown on protests -- violence that led to a protracted civil war.

Syria’s return to the 22-member body would be mostly symbolic but it reflects a change in the regional approach towards the Syrian conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the war, which drew in numerous foreign powers, and splintered the country.

Last month sources said Riyadh and Damascus had reached an agreement to reopen their embassies after the Muslim holy month of Ramazan. The Saudi foreign ministry did not confirm an agreement was reached but said it was in talks with the Syrian foreign ministry to resume consular services.

One of the three sources said discussions have been ongoing for more than a year over a list of demands from Saudi Arabia for the Syrian government to meet as a condition to mend ties, including close cooperation on border security and drug trafficking.