Syrian regime foreign minister in Saudi Arabia for first visit since conflict began

Syrian regime foreign minister in Saudi Arabia for first visit since conflict began
2 min read
This is the first time a foreign minister from the Assad regime visits Saudi Arabia since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
Faisal Mekdad has arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah [source: Getty]

Syrian regime Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a Saudi statement said, on the first such trip since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Mekdad flew into Jeddah after an invitation from his Saudi counterpart, according to the statement from the Saudi foreign ministry.

They will "hold a session of talks on efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves the unity, security and stability of Syria", the statement said.

The foreign ministers will also discuss "facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and securing humanitarian access to the affected areas in Syria".

Mekdad arrives two days before nine Arab countries gather in Jeddah on Friday to discuss allowing President Bashar Al-Assad's Syrian regime to attend an Arab League summit next month.

Ministers and top officials from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - and Egypt, Iraq and Jordan have been invited, Qatar foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said earlier.

Saudi Arabia broke off ties with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2012 after it brutally cracked down on peaceful protesters and plunged the country into a bloody conflict.

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More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in Syria over the past 12 years, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have provided some support to the Syrian opposition. 

Over the past few months however, there has been increasing Arab engagement with Assad, who has been isolated since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Assad has visited the UAE and Oman this year and last month Saudi Arabia said it has started talks with Damascus about resuming consular services.