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Arab League readmits Syria

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-09 09:56

A general view shows the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League Headquarters in Cairo, Egypt May 7, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

The Arab League's decision to restore Syria's membership marks a victory for the conflict-battered country and region, and the breakthrough will help Damascus normalize relations with the other member states of the pan-Arab organization, according to analysts.

On Sunday, foreign ministers of the Arab League nations voted at a meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo to restore Syria's membership in the organization, ending 12 years of suspension and isolation. The ministers also agreed on the need to intensify efforts "to help Syria out of its crisis" and preserve its sovereignty, unity, stability and regional integrity.

Khaled Almasri, a former dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy at Al-Sham Private University in Damascus, said that Syria's return to the Arab fold was a symbolic step that could bring some change but Arab states and the Syrian government have yet to agree on concessions or solutions.

Dina Yulianti Sulaeman, director of the Indonesia Center for Middle East Studies and lecturer in international relations at Padjadjaran University in Indonesia, said the development represents "a victory for Syria" after the membership decision was postponed earlier because the Arab League adhered to the "agenda led by the United States".

With the help of its allies, Syria "managed to prevail against all threats", she said.

Syria has been in crisis and divided into factions after demonstrations broke out in 2011 and the conflict turned into a full-scale civil war. The presence of an estimated 900 US troops in the country has been criticized by the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, which rejects the US military intervention and calls its continued presence illegal.

Sulaeman said that amid the declining power of the US in the Middle East and "the increasingly significant role of China" in mediating various conflicts in the region, the Arab League countries "appear to be more daring" to make decisions that are contrary to the wishes of the US.

On Sunday, a committee made up of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and Arab League representatives was formed to continue dialogue with the Syrian government to reach a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis.

This was a follow-up to a meeting held on May 1 in Amman, Jordan, among the foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, to discuss a political solution to Syria's humanitarian, security and political crises.

"I think this was being prepared for a while now", said Rasha Al Joundy, senior researcher for Gulf Affairs at Dubai Public Policy Research Centre, highlighting the United Arab Emirates restored relations with Syria and Syrian President Assad's visit to the Emirates twice.

Despite the decision to resume Syria's participation in the Arab League meetings, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, clarified that this does not imply that the Syrian crisis has been resolved and that it will take time to find a resolution.

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