Assad takes part in the momentous conference of Arab leaders in Jeddah
Syria’s President Bashar Assad made his first trip to the Kingdom since the start of the country’s turmoil in 2011 when he landed in Jeddah on Thursday to attend the Arab League meeting.
After a 12-year ban, Assad’s presence at the summit on Friday officially reunifies Syria with the Arab world and ushers in a new era in ties between the two countries.
Syria was just reinstituted into the 22-member league, and Assad will soon rejoin them. Last week, the Syrian president received a formal invitation to the conference.
In reaction to the deadly assault on pro-democracy protesters that started the civil war, which has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions, Saudi Arabia severed relations with Assad’s administration in 2012. Additionally, it was the cause of Syria’s suspension from the Arab League.
The process of Syria’s re-entry into the Arab community has been underway at least since 2018, but it accelerated following two catastrophic earthquakes that rocked Turkey and Syria in February, which led to an infusion of relief from the area.
After the earthquakes, Prince Faisal bin Farhan of Saudi Arabia, the country’s foreign minister, stated that there was growing agreement in the Arab world that a new strategy for Syria, including talks with Damascus, would be necessary to solve humanitarian concerns.
Several Arab heads of state and leaders arrived before Assad did. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the president of Egypt, arrived first, followed by Najib Mikati, the prime minister of Lebanon, Mahmoud Abbas, the monarch of Bahrain, King Hamad, Rashad Al-Alimi, the head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, the president of Mauritius, Sayyid Asaad bin Tarik Al-Said, and President Kais Saied of Tunisia.
Bahrain’s monarch declared that the summit was a “good occasion” for leaders to discuss, share ideas, and improve collective coordination in support of Arab action after landing in Jeddah.
The summit takes place at a time when the Arab community is striving for stronger cohesion and sense of direction. This general appeal for collaboration has been greatly fueled by Saudi Arabia’s expanding influence and support for “home-grown” solutions to regional issues, experts told Arab News.