Source of the photo: saudigazette.com.sa
Executive summary: Saudi Arabia and Syria agreed to restore diplomatic relations after more than a decade since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The two countries are in talks according to a source from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs who revealed the information to Al Ekhbariya news channel.
Syria and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume their consular services and to reopen embassies after eleven years of diplomatic freeze in their relations. The countries’ governments are “preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr”, a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.
Citing a foreign ministry source, news anchor from the Saudi state TV said: “Within the framework of the Kingdom’s keenness to facilitate the provision of necessary consular services between the two nations, discussions are underway with officials in Syria to resume consular services.”
Contacts between Damascus and Saudi Arabia had accelerated after the signature of the deal from March 10 backed by China when Riyadh and Tehran decided to re-establish bilateral relations and reopen embassies after several years of tensions.
According to the Reuters reporters, the restoration of ties between Riyadh and Damascus would be the most important achievement in Arab states’ efforts to repair the strained relations with President Assad government.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011, following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. President Bashar al-Asaad remains with only a few allies left in the region.
After years of severed relations with most of the Arab countries, President Asaad and his government experienced a thaw in these relations following the consequences of the earthquake from February 6th, 2023. Numerous Arab leaders offered their help and expressed solidarity with Syria.
Recently, President Bashar al-Asaad made a few official visits both to Moscow where he held talks with President Vladimir Putin, but also to some Arab states, such as Oman on February 20th, 2023, and the UAE in efforts to ease Arab isolation.
On February 19, 2023, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, has publicly stated and agreed that there is a growing consensus among Arab nations that dialogue with Damascus is essential and needed.
The decision to restore diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Damascus came as a result of talks held in Saudi Arabia with a senior Syrian intelligence official. The engagement of the two countries could eventually pave the way for Syria’s return to the Arab league. However, it is still too early to talk precisely about it.
The next Arab League summit will take place in May 2023 and most of the states believe that Syria has a chance to make a comeback into the Arab world and to return to the Arab fold after its membership was suspended in 2011.
Even though the state television from Saudi Arabia announced that discussion between the two parts were ongoing for a few days in Riyadh, the Syrian state media did not confirm the talks.
The Syrian government, Saudi government’s communication office, the kingdom’s foreign ministry did not make any comments on this subject.
The sudden and unexpectedly decision of Saudi Arabia and Syria to restore ties may be a sign of how the recent deal agreed between Tehran and Riyadh will affect other regional issues and the role it will play in shifting alliances.
Rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has fueled conflicts around the region, including the war in Syria where Saudi Arabia backed the Syrian rebels, while Iran has provided significant financial and military support for the Syrian government to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power.
The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria last month generated a feeling of sympathy among the Arab nations and prompted leaders to engage in dialogue with President Asaad, thus accelerating the process of his reintegration in the region. Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia sent help to Syria.
The decision of Saudi Arabia and Syria to resume their diplomatic relations represents a major step forward towards the process of reintegration of Syria into the regional fold after years of isolation.
The recent trips made by President Asaad to Russia, Oman, and the UAE indicate that things are getting better and show a sign of re-engagement in the Arab world. Normalizing ties with Syria have been a priority for a few years now and at appears that with the Saudi-Iran agreement, the way to reintegration has been paved.