After more than a decade of tensions in state level, Saudi Arabia and Syria are now in the path of restoring ties, with talks starting this Thursday between the two countries.
According to a report by Saudi Arabia’s state television this Thursday, Riyadh and Damascus have started negotiations to end nearly 11 years of tensions and resume bilateral relations.
“Within the framework of the kingdom’s keenness to facilitate the provision of necessary consular services between the two nations, discussions are underway with officials in Syria to resume consular services,” the Saudi Channel, Al-Ekhbariya, said on Thursday, citing a foreign ministry source. It was back in 2012 when the civil war in Syria had erupted for a year that Saudi Arabia decided to close its embassy in Damascus and expel the Syrian ambassador in support for the Syrian opposition.
According to another report by Reuters this Thursday, the two countries have also agreed to reopen their embassies, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter. The decision was, as the report noted, the result of talks between Saudi Arabian officials and a senior Syrian intelligence official.
Saudi Arabia in the path of disregarding the US historical demands
Despite having been a strategic ally for Washington for many years, Riyadh has been moving against US major policies in the Middle East for a while. Especially after US President Joe Biden came to power in 2021, the Kingdom has made decisions in various political and economic fields that have been at odds with what the US wanted.
In addition to taking unilateral oil policies and disregarding US demands in OPEC several times in favor of Russia, Saudi Arabia has also decided lately to act more independently in regional policies by, for example, restoring ties with Iran earlier this month and doing the same with Syria now.
Good to mention that Washington has, for years, been opposing governments in Iran and Syria and has done almost anything to help oppositions in these two countries in various ways. Although the White House did not express any feeling of anger or frustration over the Saudi’s move to restore ties with Iran, Washington couldn’t stay silent when Riyadh announced a rapprochement with the Syrian government.
When asked about the Kingdom’s willingness to oppose the US desire and normalize ties with Syria, a US State Department spokesperson said that his country’s “stance on normalization with Damascus remains unchanged” and that it would not encourage other countries to normalize ties with Bashar Al-Assad. In yet another historical move against the will of the US, Saudi Arabia also restored relations with Iran earlier this month. Iran and Saudi Arabia had held previous rounds of talks in Iraq and Oman. Last week’s pact, however, was struck in China, US’s biggest rival on various grounds.
The US already lost the UAE in shaping Middle East policies
The United Arab Emirates, another strategic US partner, has also been taking decisions in opposition to American policies in the region. Normalizing ties with the Syrian government in 2018, the UAE received Bashar Al-Assad in Abu Dhabi with his wife last week on Saturday.
Welcoming the couple, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai, said in a statement on Twitter back then that he and Al-Assad “held constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries”. He also noted that during their bilateral discussions, the two leaders “also explored ways of enhancing cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region”.