Arab League says re-establishing ties with Damascus 'up to member states' as Assad prepares for Jeddah visit

Arab League says re-establishing ties with Damascus 'up to member states' as Assad prepares for Jeddah visit
The Secretary-General of the Arab League says that the Assad regime's return to the organisation does not mean that all Arab states will establish ties with it.
2 min read
18 May, 2023
Ahmed Aboulgheit said that not all Arab states would normalise ties with Assad [Getty]

The Secretary-General of the Arab League has said Syria’s return to the Arab League does not mean that "all Arab countries will re-establish ties with it", a day before a landmark summit which Bashar Al-Assad is expected to attend.

Ahmed Aboulgheit told Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya that the Arab League controversially welcoming the Assad regime back into the fold was an attempt to "solve the crisis" in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Thursday evening to attend the Arab League summit for the first time in over 12 years.

The Arab League suspended Syria's participation in 2011 following the killing of hundreds of people by the Assad regime after protests broke out against it that year.

The protests escalated into a conflict that has killed over 500,000 people and displaced millions more, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

However, in recent months a number of Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia, have normalised ties with the Assad regime and this culminated in Assad’s invitation to Jeddah.

Aboulgheit told Al-Arabiya that Syria was again a full member of the Arab League, adding that the pan-Arab body had never stopped its contact with the Assad regime over the previous years, coordinating the delivery of medical equipment amid the conflict.

Many Syrians have expressed dismay that the Assad regime has been re-admitted to the Arab League.

In a statement sent to The New Arab, the Syria Campaign human rights group said: "Shaking hands with Assad instead of holding home accountable is not only a grave betrayal to Assad’s victims. It also sends a signal to authoritarians worldwide that they can brutally break every international law and not face any real consequence."

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Several Arab states have also expressed opposition to the regime's admission to the league, notably Morocco and Qatar.

On Wednesday evening, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said that "the solution to restore stability in Syria must satisfy the Syrian people".

However, he added that Qatar would not stand against "an Arab consensus" on readmitting the regime.

Al-Thani previously said that Qatar's boycott of the regime was still in place.