Saudi Arabia, Syria to reopen embassies restoring ties

Saudi Arabia and Syria will now reopen diplomatic missions between the two countries as relations have improved after 11 years of closure, the foreign ministries of both countries said on Tuesday.

The announcements come nearly a month after Syria and Saudi Arabia said they were moving toward reopening embassies and resuming airline flights. This followed a visit by Syria’s top diplomat to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia breaking off diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012, and a visit to Riyadh by the Syrian Foreign Minister.

On Sunday, the 22-member Arab League agreed to restore Syria, ending a 12-year suspension and taking another step toward bringing Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime regional pariah, back into the fold.

Syria was widely boycotted by Arab governments over the brutal crackdown on protesters by the Assad government that descended into civil war in the 2011 uprising. Relations soured with Syria’s ouster from the Arab League.

After the conflict began, Saudi Arabia supported the Syrian opposition.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the reopening of its embassy in Damascus was aimed at “strengthening security and stability in the region”. It did not say when the embassy would reopen, saying the move followed the Arab League’s decision to reinstate Syria’s membership.

Syria’s foreign minister later said that Damascus would resume work on its mission in Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, as Assad has established control over much of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps towards reconciliation.

The overture picked up speed since the massive February 6 earthquake in Türkiye and Syriaand the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had supported opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit on May 19 and Syria is expected to attend.

Earlier on Tuesday, the United States and Britain expressed dissatisfaction over the weekend’s decision by the Arab League to reinstate Syria as a member.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Clever stated that they opposed the move. But he also allowed it to depend on the Arab League to determine its membership.

Also on Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Moscow where he will attend a meeting on Wednesday that will be attended by his counterparts from Iran, Turkey and Russia.

It will be the first time Syria’s foreign minister will meet his Turkish counterpart in more than a decade, as Turkey has been a main backer of opposition fighters trying to oust Assad.

In late April, meetings were held in Moscow between the defense ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Syria’s 12-year conflict has killed half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

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