Saudi Arabia to reopen embassy in Syria as relations improve

AP , Tuesday 9 May 2023

The diplomatic mission of Saudi Arabia in Syria will resume its work 11 years after it was closed as the two countries' relations have improved recently, the kingdom’s news agency reported late Tuesday.

Waleed Al-Khuraiji and Faisal Mekdad
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji, right, meets with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, upon his arrival at King Abdulaziz International Airport, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 12, 2023. Syria will reopen its embassy in Tunisia, state media reported Wednesday, as Syria s top diplomat visited Saudi Arabia seeking to restore ties that have been severed for more than a decade. AP


The announcement came nearly a month after Syria and Saudi Arabia said they were moving toward reopening embassies and resuming airline flights.

Last month’s development followed a visit by Syria’s top diplomat to the kingdom, the first since Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012 and a visit by Syria’s foreign minister to Riyadh.

On Sunday, the 22-member Arab League agreed to reinstate Syria, ending a 12-year suspension and taking another step toward bringing Syrian President Bashar Assad back into the fold.

Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments over the Assad government's brutal crackdown on protesters in a 2011 uprising that descended into civil war. The breakdown in relations culminated with Syria being ousted from the Arab League.

After the conflict started, Saudi Arabia backed the Syrian opposition.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the reopening of its embassy in Damascus aims “to strengthen security and stability in the region.” It did not say when the embassy will reopen, adding that the move follows the Arab League’s decision to reinstate Syria’s membership.

There was no official comment from Damascus.

In recent years, as Assad consolidated control over most of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement.

The overtures picked up pace since the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit on May 19 and Syria is expected to attend.

Earlier on Tuesday, the United States and Britain voiced dissatisfaction with the weekend decision by the Arab League to re-instate Syria as a member.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said they opposed the move. But they also allowed it was up to the Arab League to determine its membership.

Also on Tuesday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Moscow where he will attend a meeting on Wednesday that will include his counterparts from Iran, Turkey and Russia.

It will be the first time that Syria’s foreign minister will meet his Turkish counterpart in more than a decade, as Turkey has been a main backer of opposition fighters trying to remove Assad from power.

Meetings between the defense ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were held in Moscow in late April.

Syria’s 12-year conflict has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

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