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Arab countries to meet in Jeddah to discuss Syria’s return to Arab world

Arab countries will gather in Jeddah on Friday to discuss ending Syria’s return to the Arab League in light of the recent détente and shift in relations between Damascus and many Arab countries.

Ministers and top officials from the six Persian Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan are to take part in the meeting at Riyadh’s request in which Syria’s suspension from the Arab league is to be discussed.

Saudi media outlets said that the nine-nation talks, come after Syria’s foreign minister visited in Jeddah on an unannounced trip on Wednesday, the first since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis.

Faisal Mekdad and his Saudi counterpart discussed “the necessary steps” to end Damascus’s isolation, according to a Saudi statement on Wednesday.

Many Middle Eastern countries cut ties with Assad’s government in 2011 after the eruption of foreign-backed militancy in Syria.

“The meeting aims to overcome the Persian Gulf differences over Syria as much as possible,” AFP quoted a Riyadh diplomat as saying, adding that, “The Saudis are trying at least to ensure that Qatar does not object to Syria’s return to the Arab League if the issue is put to any vote.”

He pointed out that although the Arab League takes decisions by consensus, unanimous agreement is unlikely.

The Riyadh-based diplomat who declined to be identified, singled out Qatar, which is known for its rivalry to the Assad government.

The move, according to media reports, will anger Western capitals.

Earlier on Thursday, the prime minister of Qatar Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani said there is nothing proposed, and that everything remains to be speculations so far.

The shift in policies took place as Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations severed in 2016. The recent development indicates how the deal between Tehran and Riyadh may play into the settlement of other crises in the Middle East region.

Earlier last week, the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers signed a joint statement in Beijing to restore relations and start arrangements to reopen embassies and consulates. Riyadh and Tehran have also agreed to improve security and economic cooperation.

Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended following the eruption of a foreign-backed militancy in the country in 2011.

In 2015, Syrian activists said that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey supported both al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Daesh terrorist group in Syria by giving them money or allowing Wahhabi mosques to collect money for them.

Around the same time, former US Senate candidate, Mark Dankof said the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia had been involved in creating the Daesh terrorist group to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government.

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus and withdrew all diplomats in March 2012. Today, the two governments are “preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr”, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, according to media reports.

The UAE also cut its relations with Syria in 2012, a year after Damascus found itself in the grips of foreign-backed violence, but it reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018.

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