Syrian FM Makes First Visit to Saudi Arabia Since 2011

Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Wednesday after reportedly being invited by his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, as relations between Damascus and the Arab world move toward normalization....

Syrian FM Makes First Visit to Saudi Arabia Since 2011
Image credit: Saudi Press Agency/Handout [via Reuters]
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Facts

  • Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Wednesday after reportedly being invited by his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, as relations between Damascus and the Arab world move toward normalization.1
  • The Saudi Foreign Ministry reported that the two ministers were expected to discuss a political solution to the Syrian crisis 'that preserves the unity, security, and stability of Syria,' facilitates the return of Syrian refugees, and ensures humanitarian aid access.2
  • Arab governments across the region have been making moves in recent years to normalize relations with Syria, which were almost completely broken off in 2011 due to the onset of a political crisis and civil war in the country. Many Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, supported armed groups in Syria's war.3
  • However, the US has been more hesitant regarding normalization, with a National Security Council (NSC) official saying in response to Mekdad's visit that 'we will not normalize relations with the Assad regime absent real progress towards a political solution to the underlying conflict.'4
  • It has also been reported that Syria may soon re-enter the Arab League, with Saudi Arabia set to host several regional leaders on Friday to discuss the topic.1
  • The visit also comes as a number of major developments have occurred in the Middle East, specifically last month's Chinese-brokered announcement that Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have backed opposing sides in conflicts across the region, including Syria, would work towards resuming ties.5

Sources: 1Al Jazeera, 2Jerusalem Post, 3Al, 4Al arabiya english and 5The times of israel.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Middle east eye. It's no surprise that Arab dictatorships, which are some of the most brutal authoritarian regimes in the world, are rushing to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship in Syria. Though Assad butchered his own people with barrel bombs and chemical weapons, now that supporting the opposition to his rule is not politically expedient, the Gulf monarchies are more than happy to bring him back to the Arab fold.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Al mayadeen english. Though imperialist forces in the region, namely the US, are trying to sabotage Syria's return to the Arab fold, the path to normalization seems quite certain at this point. Though the West, alongside its regional cronies in the Gulf, waged war against Syria and Assad's government, it's time to move past this and look to the future in a multipolar world order that's not dictated by the whims of the West.
  • Cynical narrative, as provided by Al arabiya english. Though it's apparent that Assad is a criminal and a butcher, the West and its allies' posture toward his regime has bore no fruit in terms of ending Syria's conflict. Ultimately, after 12 years of war, Assad, alongside Russian and Iranian support, has essentially defeated the opposition, and it's time to allow for his regime to re-enter the Arab fold, regardless of how the US feels about it. Syria, though a brotherly nation, will likely be held at arm's length for the foreseeable future nonetheless.