The Arab League yesterday readmitted Syria after more than a decade of suspension, consolidating a regional push to normalise ties with President Bashar Al Assad in a move criticised by Washington.
The decision said Syria could resume its participation in Arab League meetings immediately, while calling for a resolution of the crisis resulting from Syria’s civil war, including the flight of refugees to neighbouring countries and drug smuggling across the region.
Foreign Minister Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani took part in the Arab League’s extraordinary session in Cairo yesterday.
The meeting was chaired by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the chairman of the current session of the Arab League Ministerial Council.
While Arab states including the UAE have pressed to end Assad’s isolation, some have been opposed to full normalisation without a political solution to the Syrian conflict, seeking conditions for Syria’s return.
Qatar, which had previously opposed Syria’s return to the League, said its position on normalisation had not changed and it hoped regional consensus on Syria could be “a motive for the Syrian regime to address the roots of the crisis”, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency QNA.
“The reinstatement of Syria does not mean normalisation of relations between Arab countries and Syria,” Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in Cairo. “This is a sovereign decision for each country to make.”
A US State Department spokesperson said Washington shared the goals of Arab partners in Syria, including building security and stability, but remained “sceptical of Assad’s willingness to take the steps necessary to resolve Syria’s crisis”.
“We do not believe Syria merits readmission into the Arab League at this time,” the spokesperson said, adding that US sanctions would remain in full effect.
Yesterday’s decision said Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and the Arab League’s secretary-general would form a ministerial group to liaise with the Syrian government and seek solutions to the crisis through reciprocal steps.
The Foreign Minister also took part in the Arab League extraordinary meeting on the situation in Sudan. A resolution was passed emphasising the necessity of full respect for Sudan’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and non-interference in its internal affairs.