Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo Sunday, have agreed to restore Syria’s membership in the League after a suspension of over 10 years due to the country’s civil war. The ministers also agreed to support the U.S.-Saudi peace initiative to resolve the conflict in Sudan.
The Arab League Foreign Minister’s decision to restore Syria’s membership in the body was reportedly not unanimous but was made in a majority vote taken during a closed session. The move comes days before a scheduled Arab League summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
An Arab League statement noted that the “resolution of the Syria conflict is a step-by-step matter,” and that the first step was the resumption of Syrian participation in Arab League meetings. The group supports the “territorial integrity of Syria,” and the “withdrawal of all foreign forces” from the country.
Arab League spokesperson Jamal Rushdy said Sunday’s decision does “not signal an end to the conflict in Syria, but the beginning of an end.” He added that the Syria crisis “is not just a domestic conflict, but a regional and international conflict,” noting that the Arab League “would like to be involved in the resolution to the conflict,” because of its repercussions on many Arab countries.
He said the decision to give Syria its seat back is mostly a symbolic political move, after so many years of not allowing Syria to participate in the group, and Arab states would like Syria to be a party to the resolution of its conflict.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, tells VOA that welcoming Syria back to the Arab League comes at a bad time, several days after the visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raissi to Damascus, in which Tehran and Damascus concluded long-term deals over oil, phosphates, transport, electricity, agriculture and other major economic issues.
He says that the decision to give Syria its seat back at the Arab League signals a complete victory of the Syrian regime and it is symbolic for the Syrian government. The international community, he points out, has allowed Syria to retain its seat at the U.N., so if Damascus can still be a member of the U.N., there’s no reason why it can’t be a member of the Arab league.
Abou Diab added that Syria is now effectively divided into three or four zones of influence, with the Assad regime controlling a large chunk of the country, under Iranian and Russian influence, with the Turks controlling part of the northwest of the country under the control of pro-Turkish militias and jihadis, and with the Kurds controlling the northeast with the support of the U.S., in addition to Israeli control over the skies of the country.
On another topic, Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit, addressing Arab League foreign ministers, noted that the Sudan conflict is “at a crossroads,” as the situation “continues to worsen.”
He says that many Sudanese refugees are flowing into neighboring countries and none of seven truces have succeeded in bringing a halt to the conflict and the Arab League must support the U.S.-Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict, amid efforts by various players to divide Sudan into warring mini-states.
Saudi-sponsored talks to end the Sudanese conflict are continuing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as representatives of both Sudanese military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo meet to discuss the situation. Both leaders fought in Yemen under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.