Protests in northwest Syria against Saudi 'normalisation' with Assad regime

Protests in northwest Syria against Saudi 'normalisation' with Assad regime
Saudi Arabia has been leading Arab efforts to normalise relations with the Syrian regime, which have been met with rejection from opposition areas in northwest Syria.
3 min read
15 April, 2023
The Syrian has voiced opposition to Arab nations' rapprochement with Bashar al-Assad's regime [Getty]

Protests took place across parts of northwestern Syria on Friday, rejecting Saudi-led normalisation efforts between the Assad regime and a number of Arab countries.

Demonstrations took place in the cities of Idlib, Azaz and Afrin, where protesters rejected calls by some Arab nations for reconciliation with Damascus. 

Demonstrations also took place in the village of Al-Jalama in Jindires in Aleppo governorate, and Tal Abyad, Raqqa.

One participant, Zakaria Suno, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that demonstrators want to convey that "the people's revolution is continuing".

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— قحطان الشرقي KAHTTAN ALSHRKI (@k_alsharki) April 14, 2023

"The Syrian people, who have been abandoned and tasted scourge, will never be satisfied with returning to Assad's rule, even if all countries normalise relations with him," he further added.

Another participant, activist Radwan al-Abrash, said that the Arab countries’ normalisation with the regime "came with the international community's laxity in implementing UN resolutions and achieving a political transition in Syria".

Protesters also condemned steps towards normalisation between Saudi Arabia and Syria, following Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad’s visit to Riyadh earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Mekdad arrived in the Gulf country’s capital in a first trip since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.

The top Assad regime diplomat met with Saudi foreign ministers to discuss "the necessary steps to achieve a complete political settlement to the Syrian crisis", with the aim of reinstating Syria’s isolated government back to the fold of the Arab League, according to a statement by the Saudi foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, representatives of nine Arab countries - including Egypt and Jordan - met in Jeddah on Friday to discuss allowing Damascus to attend an Arab League summit in May.

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At least four Arab League states, however, have opposed the Saudi-led efforts to reinstate Syria.

Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait and the internationally-recognised Yemeni government reportedly "doubled down on their demands, including calls that Damascus accept Arab troops to protect returning refugees, crack down on illicit drug smuggling, and ask Iran to stop expanding its footprint in the nation," sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Damascus was expelled from the regional bloc following Bashar al-Assad’s brutal onslaught against a peaceful uprising, which led to the devastating civil war that has killed approximately 500,000 Syrians, and left millions more displaced.

Saudi Arabia had cut ties with the regime, and went on to back rebel groups wanting to remove Assad from power.

On Thursday, the Syrian opposition openly condemned any normalisation of ties between Damascus and Riyadh.

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces stressed that Mekdad’s visit to the kingdom "complicates the political process" and is "not an option for Syria".