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As if nothing had happened
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As if nothing had happened, Syria and Saudi Arabia agreed last Thursday to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies after ten years. This follows the restoring of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
This event is considered as a domino effect of the restoring of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Also, it could be considered the most important development of the 12 years old civil war regarding the relations of Damascus with other Arab countries.
The decision was taken after talks between the Saudi government and a Syrian intelligence oficial. It seems that this official was Maher al-Assad, younger brother of President Assad. Maher is a crucial link with Iran and head of the Syrian intelligence, the Mukhabarat. The two govenrments are preparing to reopen their embassies after Eid al-Fitr. It seems that the intention is to present the agreement before a possible visit to Damascus in April by Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan.
It seems that Russia has played a role in these talks. Vladimir Putin took advantage of Bashar al-Assad’s visit to the Kremlin and discussed the terms of the agreement with Saudi Arabia. Another important player in this move was Iran. President Ebrahim Raisi convinced his Syrian counterpart of the importance of restoring relations with Riyadh. This comes after the Iranians themselves sign an agreement in China restoring relations with the kingdom. The approachment was also supported by Oman and Jordan.
China, Russia and Saudi Arabia were the first countries to send aid to Syria after the earthquake. Riyadh sent aid to northern Syria, which was the most damaged region. It seems this international solidarity has been used by the Syrian government to boost its position.
The agreement has been welcomed by China, which expressed firm support to the strengthening of coordination and strategic independence against US efforts to thwart regional reconciliation in the Middle East. Chinese Foreign Minister, Mao Ning, described this reaproachment as “conductive to Arab states’ unity and revitalization”.
The restoring of relations is a possible sign of Assad ruled Syria return to the international scene. Last February he visited Oman, and last week, the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012 and expelled the Syrian ambassador.
The US has opposed moves by Middle Eastern countries to restore relations with Syria’s Assad.
During most of the war, the Saudi regime backed Sunni rebels against the Alawite regime of Assad, supported by Shia Iran. Riyadh also promoted the expulsion of Syria from the Arab League for its brutal crackdown on protesters.
Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League’s summit. It is here where Damascus membership could be restored.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy back in 2018.
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