Executive Summary: On April 18, 2023, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan was greeted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus during his first official visit to Syria in more than a decade. The meeting represents a huge step forward in ending Syria’s regional isolation since 2011.
Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister in Damascus on 18th of April breaking a severe diplomatic standoff between their countries that has lasted more than 10 years now, state media reported.
According to the Saudi news agency, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Damascus to discuss “efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis to preserve Syria’s unity, security, stability, Arab identity, and territorial integrity, in a way that achieves the good of its brotherly people”.
The visit comes a few days after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad made his first visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he discussed with Prince Faisal bin Farhan ways of enhancing cooperation and stability in the region and announced their decision to resume consular services and flights between Syria and Saudi Arabia.
During the meeting from April 18, President Bashar al-Asaad stressed the importance of Arab brotherhood which remains the strongest bond between Arab nations and mentioned that good relations between Syria and the Kingdom are the natural state in which they should exist in order to work in both interests.
President Bashar al-Assad placed also a high importance on the role of friendly relations between Arab nations in order to support the Syrian people and to liberate Syrian territories, stabilize the situation, and mitigate the effects of the conflict in his country.
In response, Saudi Foreign Minister emphasized that the Kingdom stands by Syria and supports it by expressing his confidence in Syria’s ability to overcome the effects of the war as well as of the quakes from February 2023.
Back in February, the Saudi prince declared that there is a growing support in the Arab world for a new strategy to approach the conflict in Syria in order to address humanitarian concerns.
Previous to the official visit of Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Damascus, a number of diplomats from Arab countries gathered in Jeddah to discuss ending Syria’s long-time isolation and the possibility of its return to the Arab league from which it was expelled in 2011.
Over the last month, it has been said that Prince Faisal bin Farhan would travel to Damascus to invite President Assad to the Arab League summit which is going to take place in May as both countries agreed resume diplomatic relations. No official source has made any statements regarding this rumor after the meeting between the Syrian President and Saudi Foreign Minister.
Even though Syria has been politically isolated in the past decade, the country is now shifting its ties with major powers in the region and diplomatic activity is underway. The Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad visited Saudi Arabia just a week before in his first official visit since the start of the war. Recently, Syria has also agreed to restore its diplomatic ties with Tunisia and to appoint a new ambassador. The Syrian foreign minister visited Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Egypt too in April in a diplomatic push.
Syria is hoping that a normalization with the states from the region would bring economic benefits for reconstruction as well as a political settlement to the conflict.