Assad's notorious chief security adviser 'visited Riyadh' to discuss Syria-Saudi rapprochement

Assad's notorious chief security adviser 'visited Riyadh' to discuss Syria-Saudi rapprochement
A Lebanese newspaper has reported that a senior aide to Syria's president visited Saudi Arabia last month to discuss restoring ties.
2 min read
09 January, 2019
Arab leaders are reportedly preparing to welcome Bashar al-Assad back into the fold [AFP]

A top advisor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly visited Saudi Arabia to discuss re-establishing ties between Riyadh and Damascus, Lebanon's al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Wednesday.

News of the apparent visit comes amid a signs of a regional rapproachment between several Arab states and the Syrian regime, which has been engaged in nearly eight years of war against opposition groups and civilians.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said that the notorious Major General Ali Mamlouk, Syria's national security chief, travelled to Saudi Arabia in late December, shortly after Bahrain and the UAE announced they would reopen their diplomatic missions in Damascus.

Most Gulf states closed their embassies to Syria in 2012 following Assad's brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

The sources cited in the report added that Riyadh is preparing to change its approach towards the Assad regime in an apparent attempt to curb Iranian influence over Damascus.

Iran played a key role -  alongside Russia - in helping to suppress Syria's rebellion, which began in 2011 with protests calling for President Assad to step down. The peaceful protests escalated into an armed uprising following the brutal shooting of demonstrators by Syrian regime troops.

Now, almost eight years into Syria's devastating war, opponents of Assad's regime are watching in dismay as his government looks set to secure a comeback at home and abroad.

"We are surprised that our brothers are reaching out and building relations with this regime," exiled Syrian opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri told reporters on Sunday, referring to the rapproachment between Gulf states and Damascus.

"We hope that our brothers, the leaders of Arab nations, will not abandon the Syrian people," he added, urging them to reconsider their decisions.