Executive summary: Saudi Arabia is planning to invite President Bashar al Asaad to take part into the annual Arab leaders’ Summit in May. The move would represent a significant step towards normalizing relations with Syria.
The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, is expected to go to Damascus later this month after Ramadan to deliver himself a formal invitation to President Bashar al-Asaad to attend the Arab League Summit. The scheduled date of the Summit is May 19 and it will be hosted in Riyadh.
The foreign ministers of Syria and Saudi Arabia did not make any comments regarding the subject.
Gamal Roshdy, spokesperson for the Arab League secretary general said “We are not supposed to be informed in advance about the assumed visit”.
The attendance of President al-Asaad to the summit would be an important step forward in Syria’s process of rehabilitation in the Arab world. It would formally end the country’s regional isolation since its membership from the organization was suspended in 2011.
Syria’s return to the Arab League would reflect a shift in regional attitudes toward the Syrian conflict.
For more than a decade, Syria had only few allies, including Iran and Russia.
According to Reuters, Riyadh and Damascus had agreed to restore their diplomatic ties and to re-open embassies after the holy month of Ramadan. Although the Saudi Foreign Ministry claimed that it was in talks with his Syrian counterpart to restore consular services, but it did not confirm that an agreement had been reached.
Prince Faisal said only that a return of Syria to the Arab is “possible,” yet it is still “too early” to discuss about it. Talks were mainly held with the aim of restoring consular services between the two countries.
The on-going discussions between the Syrian and Saudi Arabia governments include ways of enhancing cooperation on border security and curtailing drug trafficking into the Gulf, a source has stated.
The earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria on February 6th, 2023, delayed initial discussion for possible official visits by Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Damascus or by Faisal Mekdad, Foreign Minister of Syria to Riyadh.
Meanwhile, on 1st of April, Egypt has agreed to strengthen cooperation and to resume contacts with the Syrian government. The decision came during the first official visit by the Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad to Cairo in more than a decade.
Some other countries such as the US and Qatar are still reluctant in normalizing ties with President al-Asaad and invoke the need for a political settlement in Syria.
President al-Asaad made his first visit to Oman in February. Then, he travelled to the United Arab Emirates accompanied by his wife.
Reestablishing ties with Saudi Arabia would be a major achievement that would lead Syria to closer engagement in the region.