Because of the earthquakes on February 6, which resulted in more than 50 thousand deaths across Turkey and Syria, Arab nations must confront contentious issues about their relations with Damascus. The dire humanitarian situation in the northwest of the country, held by the oppositions groups, needs urgent considerations.
As of now, no Arab nation has altered its fundamental position on President Bashar al-Assad as a consequence of the catastrophe. His administration has been mostly separated from the Arab governments for over 12 years. A mainly unarmed revolt against Assad’s authority turned into a full-fledged civil war early last decade.
Back in 2021, Syria was expelled from the Arab League, and a number of its members withdrew their ambassadors from the Syrian capital. In reaction to the deadly mistreatment of civilians during the revolts, Washington and the EU countries also cut ties with Assad regime and imposed widespread sanctions on the nation.
However, following the earthquakes, Arab initiatives to hasten Syria’s diplomatic readmission into the area have gained steam, led mostly by Abu Dhabi. An Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union group from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, and the UAE arrived in Syrian capital this week for consultations with the president and Syrian lawmakers, underscoring this fact.
Due to the emergent need for humanitarian assistance, there is a chance for states to build partnerships with the Syrian administration. The move will force a political discussion regarding relations and Assad’s rehabilitation.
Many Arab nations, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Tunisia, and the UAE, are keen on terminating Syria’s exclusion in the area for their own strategic and financial reasons. These reasons range from wanting to challenge alternative support for Assad in post-conflict Syria to assertively getting involved in restoration for material advantage.
Several Gulf states regard the earthquakes as an opportunity to expand their relationship with Syria. Several nations contend that Washington’s policy against Syria has had unfavourable effects and that in to help the earthquake victims in Syria, who urgently require humanitarian aid, the global community should put aside political differences and lift the sanctions.
The catastrophe called into sharp focus the incapacity of regional leaders to affect events on the ground without working through Damascus, Neil Quilliam, an associate fellow at Chatham House think-tank believes. “As such, relations might well move forward, but most regional leaders will view it simply as a necessity to aid the victims of the earthquake and to also stem the flow of captagon towards the Gulf,” he further added.
Assad visited Oman a firth-night after the catastrophe, his second trip to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nation since the conflict in Syria started 12 years ago.
His reception in Muscat demonstrated desire at the top levels of the GCC to restore Assad. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s agreement was required for Assad to go to Oman.
It was expected that al-Assad will travel to Oman as his first international destination following the earthquake. Throughout the Syrian war, the sultanate was the only one of the GCC’s six members to preserve diplomatic ties with Syria, and Muscat has advocated for Syria’s admission to the Arab League.
The signal that Assad journey to Oman communicated to countries around the Middle East and beyond, was its most significant component. The visit was primarily of symbolic importance as it proved to the “Arab community and the world at large that the Arab League is getting ready to welcome the return of Syria to the Arab League”, an associate professor at King’s College London says.
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