President Bashar al-Assad will attend the Arab League summit on Friday, a sign of his regional rehabilitation.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, according to Al Arabiya and Syrian state television.
Al-Assad will attend the Arab League summit tomorrow, Friday, after Syria returned to the regional organization this month, more than 11 years after it was suspended.
Assad and his government were ostracized beginning in 2011 due to the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters and the subsequent devastating war in Syria.
But the president’s arrival in regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia on Thursday is the latest example of an attempt by the majority of Arab countries to now restore relations.
The host country was previously a major supporter of armed opposition groups that sought to overthrow Assad during the Syrian war.
However, in recent months, Riyadh has called for dialogue to end a conflict that has killed half a million people and displaced half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Assad’s forces have taken control of much of Syria, thanks to his two main allies Russia and Iran, helping tip the balance of power in his favour.
Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia have been turbulent since Assad came to power in 2000 after the death of his father and former president, Hafez al-Assad. The two countries severed ties in 2012. Last week, they agreed to reopen their embassies.
Steps leading to Syria’s reintegration into the Arab fold date back at least to 2018, when the United Arab Emirates restored relations with Damascus.
The process accelerated after deadly earthquakes hit northern Syria and southern Turkey in February, prompting an outpouring of aid from the region.
After the earthquakes, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said that there is a consensus in the Arab world that a new approach for Syria that requires negotiations with Damascus will be necessary to address humanitarian crises.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pressing for peace in the region, and over the past months, Riyadh has improved its relations with Iran, restored relations with Syria, and came close to ending the kingdom’s years-long involvement in the war in Yemen. . Iran, the main backer of the Syrian government, signed an agreement in China in March to restore relations with Saudi Arabia.
The renewed Saudi-Iranian relations are expected to have positive effects on the countries of the Middle East as both sides support the two rival groups.
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