Saturday, May 18, 2024

Syria’s Assad gets warm welcome at Arab League summit

After more than a decade of isolation, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been welcomed back into the Arab League. He attended the regional bloc summit in Saudi Arabia, the first since the break-out of war in Syria.

Assad on Friday attended the regional bloc’s 32nd summit that kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah for the first time since his country’s suspension following the eruption of war in Syria in 2011.

During his speech, he said the summit was a “historic opportunity” to address crises across the region.

“I hope that it marks the beginning of a new phase of Arab action for solidarity among us, for peace in our region, development and prosperity instead of war and destruction,” al-Assad told summit attendees.

He added Syria would always belong to the Arab world but called for non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab states.

“It is important to leave internal affairs to the country’s people as they are best able to manage their own affairs,” he continued.

And in an apparent swipe at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has backed Syrian rebels and sent Turkish forces into swathes of northern Syria, al-Assad noted the “danger of expansionist Ottoman thought”, describing it as influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood – an group seen as a foe by Damascus and many other Arab states.

Analysts say Syria’s readmission to the 22-member Arab League is a strong signal that al-Assad’s isolation is ending, reflecting an important shift in how regional actors view the reality of his government’s survival, in ways that are at odds with the West.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is the de facto ruler of the kingdom, hugged al-Assad before their official picture was taken ahead of the start of the meeting.

MBS said he hoped Syria’s “return to the Arab League leads to the end of its crisis”.

Some Arab states have pushed to end al-Assad’s isolation and welcomed the decision, while others have opposed full normalisation without a political solution to the Syrian conflict and want there to be conditions for Syria’s return.

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