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Political Solution Needed for Syria’s Re-Acceptance into the Arab League

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The Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said in a televised interview on Thursday that the original basis for suspending Syria from the Arab League more than a decade ago still stands.

Al-Thani said that Qatar adheres to its position on normalization with Syria unless there is a political solution to the crisis.

Arab countries are preparing to meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss the rehabilitation of Assad.

Riyadh withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2011 and severed diplomatic ties with the Assad regime, in the wake of its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

However, in recent months, the Syrian regime has started exchanging official visits and contacts with several Arab countries, amid reports about the possibility of Syria’s resumption of membership in the Arab League, which is based in Cairo.

The talks between the nine countries, held on Friday in Jeddah, the Red Sea gateway to the holy city of Mecca, follow the arrival of the Syrian foreign minister on a previously unannounced visit – the first since civil war broke out in the country in 2011.

It was one in a chain of events almost unimaginable before Saudi Arabia and Iran’s China-brokered announcement on March 10 to resume relations, after seven years of sharp division.

On Wednesday, an Iranian delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia to pave the way for the reopening of diplomatic missions, after a trip by a Saudi team in the opposite direction.

The Saudi ambassador to Yemen held talks with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels this week with the aim of ending the devastating civil war that has raged since the Saudi-led military intervention began in 2015.

Earlier this month, the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers pledged to work together to achieve “security and stability” in the volatile region during a meeting in Beijing.

And late Wednesday, gas-rich Qatar and its small Gulf neighbor Bahrain agreed to restore relations, setting aside a long-running diplomatic dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and Iran have long competed for influence across the region, with Yemen a major battleground.

But analysts say Saudi Arabia is now trying to calm the region to allow it to focus on domestic projects aimed at diversifying its energy-dependent economy.

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