Arab League ‘suspends meetings’ with Syrian regime amid continuing disputes over Captagon, refugees

Arab League ‘suspends meetings’ with Syrian regime amid continuing disputes over Captagon, refugees
The Arab League has reportedly suspended its meetings with Syrian regime representatives amid continued frustrations over the return of refugees and the smuggling of Captagon
3 min read
27 September, 2023
Syrian regime foreign minister Faisal Mekdad attended high profile meetings with Arab counterparts in Amman in May [Getty]

The Arab League ministerial committee which was formed to oversee normalisation with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has suspended meetings with regime representatives, reports by the Saudi Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper and the Russian news agency RIA Novosti have indicated.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported last week that the ministerial committee had stopped its meetings after Lebanese-Syrian talks regarding the return of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon had failed to get off the ground, and after the Assad regime had refused to cooperate with efforts by Arab League countries to end the trade in the illegal amphetamine Captagon.

The committee includes ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt, as well as the Secretary-General of the Arab League.

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RIA Novosti quoted what it called an “informed source” as saying that the Arab League committee concerned with Syria had “frozen contacts with representatives”, and claiming that this was because of “direct pressure from the United States government”.

Last May, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was welcomed to the Arab League summit in Jeddah for the first time in 12 years. The Arab League had suspended Syria’s membership in 2012 because of the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and its bombardment of civilian areas in the early days of the Syrian conflict.

Syrian regime foreign minister Faisal Mekdad also attended two meetings in the Jordanian capital Amman earlier this year and these resulted in the Amman statement, which detailed a series of ‘step by step’ actions that Syria and Arab states would take to normalise ties, in accordance with UN Resolution 2254 which calls for a political transition in Syria.


The Arab League has asked Syria to free political prisoners, ensure the safe return of refugees, allow the entry of aid to all areas of Syria, and limit the smuggling of drugs to Jordan.

However, Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi recently complained that drug smuggling from Syria had actually increased since the agreement. Safadi added that Jordan was still awaiting a response from the regime regarding proposals it had submitted to end the Syrian conflict.

Commenting on the reported suspension, Ayman Abdel Nour, a Syrian opposition activist who heads the Syrian Christians for Peace initiative, told The New Arab that it was in the Arab League’s interest to keep the dispute quiet, following its much publicized welcoming back of the Syrian regime in May.

“These suspensions have many types. You don’t send a letter saying that we suspend relations with you, you just stop meeting or planning meetings,” he said, adding that Arab League countries would likely express continued frustrations with the Syrian regime at the level of officials, rather than ministers and leaders.