EU postpones joint meeting with Arab League over Assad normalisation, Egypt criticises move

EU postpones joint meeting with Arab League over Assad normalisation, Egypt criticises move
3 min read
19 June, 2023
The EU has said it will not normalise ties with Assad before his regime is held accountable, but said it respected the Arab League's 'sovereign' decision to welcome him back.
Borrell said from Cairo that the ministerial meeting was postponed at the request of the EU [Getty]

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday criticised a decision by the European Union to put off a joint ministerial meeting with the Arab League because of the EU's objection to Arab rapprochement with the Syrian regime.

The EU’s top foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Sunday announced that the sixth EU-Arab ministerial meeting was being postponed due to the EU’s opposition to President Bashar al-Assad and his regime being welcomed back into the Arab League after a 12-year suspension.

Borrell made his comments from Cairo, where he met with Egyptian officials over the weekend.

Including Syria in the Arab League "is a sovereign decision, and we respect it, we respect it fully, but we also see that this was done in a situation where the Syrian regime did not make any meaningful efforts towards solving the conflict," Borrell said in a joint press conference alongside Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

"Our position…on the Syrian regime has not changed and will not change until they make progress in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2254. At this moment there is no serious accountability for the regime, and this is not perceived lightly by us, and that’s why the EU and the Arab League postponed our ministerial meeting at the request of the European Union," he added.

UNSCR 2254 calls for a ceasefire and political solution in Syria, but talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition have stalled repeatedly.

The EU and US have imposed economic sanctions on Assad and other key regime-linked figures and entities for a host of atrocities carried out during the war in Syria, now in its 12th year.

The EU’s two strongest member states, France and Germany, have so far ruled out any chance of normalisation with Assad, saying that restoration of ties would not address the root cause of the war and would reward a regime accused of the mass slaughter, torture and displacement of its own people.


Shoukry said the meeting’s cancellation was unfortunate, adding that the EU should have "appreciated" Syria’s return to the Arab League.

Egypt’s top diplomat said it was a collective decision taken in the regional body to give back the Syrian regime its seat, while Arab countries discuss ways on implementing UNSCR 2254.

A committee made up of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon is also looking into ways of solving the Syrian refugee crisis and curbing drug smuggling from the war-torn country.

The smuggling of the amphetamine captagon in particular is said to be a major source of financing for the Syrian regime and has become a thorn in the side of the governments of surrounding nations.