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Syria and Saudi Arabia Next in Southwest Asia Peace Initiatives

March 23, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Saudi state media reported today that their Foreign Ministry said they were in talks with Syria on resuming diplomatic work, after 11 years. Saudi Arabia had supported fundamentalist insurrectionists against Syria’s Assad. State-owned Al Ekhbariya TV, cited a source in the Foreign Ministry on the discussions, and the Saudi Foreign Minister had publicly acknowledged a growing consensus for cooperation with Syria amongst the Arab League countries. The Arab League’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit recently said that most member states want to restore Syria’s membership at the upcoming summit in May.

On Syria’s end, Waddah Abd Rabbo, editor of Syria’s al-Watan newspaper, had posted on his Facebook page on March 19 (in translation): “From my private sources: It was agreed to reopen the Saudi consulate within a few weeks, and the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister will visit Damascus.” He told Middle East Eye: “A few days ago, an important meeting took place in Riyadh between Syrian and Saudi officials. It was the first political contact between the two and future steps to restore relations between the two countries were determined.”

Middle East Eye went further: “It was widely reported—yet not officially confirmed—that Maher al-Assad, the Syrian President’s brother ... visited Saudi Arabia earlier this week and received the Kingdom’s conditions for normalization.” (Although Reuters claims the official who visited Riyadh as Hussam Louqa, the head of Syrian intelligence, Middle East Eye links to a Beirut newspaper, Al Jarida, that cites Louqa’s visit as being “months ago.”) Middle East Eye continued, reporting an anonymous Syrian official as saying: “Things are getting closer. The Saudi deal with Iran is definitely another obstacle out of the way of more re-engagement. Saudi Arabia is a core Arab state.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the discussions in Riyadh were brokered by Russia. If true, that puts China and Russia at the center of diplomatic breakthroughs, in areas in which London and Washington spent decades claiming to the world that nothing was possible. The Journal noted that the U.S. being frozen out from the Saudi-Syrian talks, and the Saudi-Iran rapprochement, has caught Washington completely off-guard.

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