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Amid efforts to normalize relations with Assad, Arab League grants Syria re-entry


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The Arab League readmitted Syria again on Sunday after more than a decade of suspension, opening the doors to ending the country’s regional and diplomatic isolation over the civil war.

In November 2011, the 22-member council suspended Damascus over its crackdown on peaceful protests that began earlier that year and which escalated into a civil conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and damaged the country’s infrastructure and industry.

While the front lines have mostly calmed down, large parts of the country’s north remain outside government control, and a political solution to the 12-year-old conflict has yet to be found.

A unanimous decision of the foreign ministers of the group said, “The government delegations from the Syrian Arab Republic will resume their participation in the meetings of the Arab League,” starting tomorrow, Sunday.

Assad has been in political isolation since the war began, but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of the Arab League summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah on May 19.

In a statement, the ministers affirmed their “keenness to launch a pioneering Arab role in efforts to solve” the Syrian crisis and its “humanitarian, security and political repercussions,” noting that humanitarian aid must reach “all those in need.”

They also agreed to form a ministerial committee to continue “direct dialogue with the Syrian government in order to reach a comprehensive solution.”

Several Arab countries cut ties with Damascus early in the conflict, betting on Assad’s demise, while some countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, provided support to the Syrian opposition.

The last Arab League summit Assad attended was in 2010, while the opposition attended the Arab Group summit in Doha in 2013, prompting an angry response from Damascus.

diplomatic push

Regional capitals are gradually coming to terms with Assad as he stubbornly clings to power and regains territory lost earlier in the conflict with crucial support from Iran and Russia.

The United Arab Emirates, which restored relations in late 2018, has been leading the latest campaign to reintegrate Damascus into the Arab fold.

The Feb. 6 earthquake that wreaked havoc in Turkey and Syria sparked Arab outreach to the Assad government, while intense diplomatic activity has been underway in the region since the decision in March by rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume relations.

In March, Saudi media said Riyadh and Damascus were in talks about resuming consular services, and in April, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan made the first visit by an official from the kingdom to Damascus since the war began.

That meeting came less than a week after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad visited Saudi Arabia, which is also the first such visit since the start of the conflict.

Mokdad has visited a series of Arab countries, including Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, in recent weeks on a diplomatic push.

On Monday, he attended talks in Amman with the foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt to discuss the long-running conflict.

In April, nine Arab countries including the Gulf states met in Saudi Arabia to discuss ending a long period in Syria’s diplomatic wilderness and the possibility of its return to the Arab League.

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