Arab nations have agreed to re-admit Syria to the Arab League more than a decade after the country’s membership was suspended following President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown against the uprising rise of the masses.
The foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo on Sunday, voted to re-approval Syria after relations between the Arab capitals and Damascus thawed in recent months, with a series of high-level visits and Saudi-led diplomacy focused on how the region should re-engage with regime.
Reception capacity — one symbolic reinforcement for Assad – comes after Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, one of the regime’s biggest backers, in March.
Diplomats said a number of countries – including Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt – had previously opposed Syria’s rejoining to the federation when Riyadh raised the issue at a meeting of foreign ministers in Jeddah. last month. Opponents believe Assad has done nothing to rehabilitate himself since brutally suppressing an uprising with military support from Iran and Russia. However, they agreed to let it back after lobbying by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Over the past few weeks, the Saudis, the UAE and other countries have persuaded this group to vote in favor of the re-admission of Syria to the Arab League. Egypt, Jordan and eventually Kuwait agreed,” said a regional diplomat.
They added that the Qataris, as the only ones still opposed, had finally come to a consensus, arguing that Syria’s re-entry into the Arab League – which many believe has reduced influence – does not affect Syria’s position in the region.
The diplomat said some countries believe more concrete steps need to be taken before they can support normalization of relations with the Syrian regime. This – rather than rejoining the Arab League, established in 1945 to promote regional cooperation – is the “only way” to ensure Assad takes “concrete steps” and process normalization takes place.
The Syria Campaign, a human rights group, said the decision to allow the Assad regime to rejoin the Arab League was “a serious obstacle to justice and human rights of Syria and the whole region”.
“Today, Arab nations have put their skeptical pragmatic political and diplomatic agendas above basic humanity,” said Laila Kiki, executive director of the Syria Campaign. “By choosing to restore the Syrian regime’s Arab League membership, member states ruthlessly betrayed tens of thousands of victims of the regime’s war crimes and gave Assad the green light to continue to commit terrible crimes with impunity.”
Countries that had opposed Syria’s re-entry into the coalition wanted rejoining done through a step-by-step process, hoping they could secure commitments from Assad – including on humanitarian issues, refugees and curb the illegal trade in captagon, a highly addictive amphetamine that has become the economic lifeline of Damascus.
Before the Arab League meeting in Cairo, Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, told CNN that Syria’s re-admission was “just the beginning” of bringing a political end to the Syrian crisis. He said “everyone” in the Arab League is ready to end the Syria crisis, but there are differences on the best approach.
Syria’s isolation in 2011 came as uprisings against the dictatorship spread across the Arab world, stoking hopes – later in the air – that the region was on the brink of death. of a new democratic era.
Assad has brutally suppressed peaceful protests in his country, sparking a civil war that has dragged on for more than a decade.
While Turkey and several Gulf states sought to topple Assad in the early stages of the war, the Syrian president was able to regain control of much of the country with the backing of Iran and Russia. Remnants of the opposition controlled the northwestern pockets of the devastated nation.
The regime remains subject to Western sanctions and millions of Syrians have been displaced within the country or sought refuge abroad. More than half a million people were killed in the conflict. The regime starved, bombed and tortured civilians to subjugate them.