Assad arrives in Saudi Arabia for Arab League summit

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Jeddah on Thursday evening on the eve of the Arab League summit in the Saudi city, after years of isolation from the Damascus regime caused by the war in Syria.

The Syrian state channel said Mr. Assad “(…) arrived at King Abdelaziz International Airport in Jeddah to attend the Arab League summit.”

Saudi public television Al-Ekhbariya showed the Syrian president smiling, disembarking from a plane and being greeted at the spectacle by Prince Badr bin Sultan, deputy governor of the Mecca region on which Jeddah depends.

The Syrian President will attend his first meeting of the Arab League since 2010, thus marking his great return to the Arab diplomatic scene.

The Arab League expelled the Syrian regime in late 2011 for its brutal suppression of a popular uprising, which turned into a devastating war, before being reinstated on 7 May.

The United Arab Emirates, which reestablished its ties with Syria in 2018, has been very active in re-inducting Damascus into the organization.

The Syrian regime has also benefited from an increase in solidarity following the February 6 earthquake that devastated large parts of Syria and Turkey.

The Arab League recently stressed the need to play a “leading role” in reaching an agreement in Syria, where war has claimed an estimated half a million lives as well as millions of refugees and displaced.

Syria, for its part, is betting on full normalization with Arab countries, especially the Gulf’s rich monarchies, in order to finance the country’s costly reconstruction.

– “Bilateral Meetings” –

The pro-Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan said Assad was expected to meet “several leaders in bilateral meetings” on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

The Arab summit comes in a context of heightened regional tensions, marked in recent months by a rapprochement between the Saudi kingdom and its great regional rival, Iran.

They should also look into the ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Yemen, which Saudi Arabia is making diplomatic efforts to resolve.

This is the case in Yemen, which has been mired in war for more than eight years, and where Riyadh backs the government against the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Tehran.

The wealthy Gulf monarchy has also played a major role in evacuating thousands of civilians from Sudan, the scene of deadly fighting for a month, and welcoming representatives of the belligerents to talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire.

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