Arab League says ‘no consensus’ yet on Syria’s return to the body

Arab League says ‘no consensus’ yet on Syria’s return to the body
The head of the Cairo-based supranational body said that the issue of Syria's return should first be discussed "between countries", then can be decided upon.
2 min read
10 March, 2022
Syria's readmission to the league would be a signal that the international isolation of Damascus is easing. [Getty]

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said on Thursday that there was no consensus on Syria’s return to the Arab League, 11 years after the country was suspended from the body.

Gheit said that Syria’s re-joining was “not discussed” during a meeting between Arab foreign ministers in Cairo yesterday. He added that the issue should be decided “bilaterally between Arab countries” and if “a consensus exists,” Syria will return to the Arab League.

The Arab League’s next meeting will be held in Algeria on November 1.

Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011, following the regime’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protests. Other members of the Arab League also cracked down on Arab Spring protesters, but were not suspended.

The country’s seat has remained vacant since as the Syrian regime intensified its war against the armed opposition, displacing about half of the population and killing hundreds of thousands.

There have been increasing calls for the country to be allowed to re-join the supranational body over the last year, with Cairo and Abu Dhabi publicly calling for Syria’s re-admission. Arab diplomats have been working behind the scenes to attempt to gain consensus over the move, according to reports.

Analysts have said that Syria being readmitted to the Arab League would largely be symbolic, as the body holds little relevance for politics in the region. It would, however, be a signal that the Syrian regime’s status as an international pariah is shifting.

Arab countries have began repairing ties with Damascus on an individual basis, with countries like Jordan and the UAE exchanging high-level diplomatic visits with Syria. Jordan said in October 2021 that it is dealing with Syria as a “fait-accompli”, and pushing ahead with relations with the country.

There is still considerable opposition to Syria’s readmission, as regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has made clear that it is against any reinstatement of the country.

The Arab League has historically been dominated by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, meaning readmission of Syria could need Saudi approval before it moves forward.

The US, for its part, said that it would not normalize ties with Damascus nor encourage its regional allies to do so.