On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers decided to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension, according to a league official, reinforcing a regional push to normalize relations with President Bashar al-Assad.
The ruling said that Syria could resume participation in Arab League meetings immediately, while also calling for a resolution to the problems caused by Syria’s civil conflict, such as refugee flight to neighboring countries and drug smuggling across the region.
According to Gamal Roshdy, spokesman for the Arab League’s secretary general, the decision was made during a closed meeting of foreign ministers at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo.
While some Arab states, such as the UAE, have advocated for Syria and Assad’s rehabilitation, others, like Qatar, have remained opposed to full normalization in the absence of a political settlement to the Syrian crisis.
Some have been eager to lay the groundwork for Syria’s readmission, with Jordan’s foreign minister stating last week that the Arab League’s reacceptance of Syria would only be the beginning of “a very long, difficult, and challenging process.”
According to the resolution announced on Sunday, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the secretary general of the Arab League will form a ministerial contact group to liaise with the Syrian government and seek “step-by-step” solutions to the issue.
According to a copy of the resolution obtained by Reuters, practical initiatives included continuing attempts to enable the delivery of aid in Syria.
Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011 following a crackdown on anti-Assad Street rallies that resulted in a deadly civil war, and many Arab states withdrew their envoys from Damascus.
Arab governments have recently been seeking to reach an agreement on whether to invite Assad to an Arab League conference on May 19 in Riyadh to discuss the pace of normalization and the circumstances under which Syria could be permitted to return.
Saudi Arabia has long opposed resuming relations with Assad, but with its recent thaw with Iran, Syria’s primary regional partner, it has stated that a fresh strategy with Damascus is required.