In a new phase of extending bilateral ties, Saudi Arabia and Syria agreed this Thursday to reopen their embassies and resume direct flights between the two capitals.
This Thursday, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Syria announced in a joint statement that the two sides are moving toward reopening embassies and resuming direct flights to/from their capitals for the first time in more than a decade.
The joint statement followed a visit by a delegation of Syria’s high-ranking diplomats to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, which marked the first official visit by Syrian officials to the Kingdom since Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties with Damascus back in 2012.
Headed by the Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, the delegation arrived in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah on Wednesday at the formal invitation of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. During the meeting, state media from both countries reported, the two sides talked about ways to put aside differences and extend bilateral relations in various fields.
“Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad was received by the kingdom’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al Khuraiji,” Saudi state media reported, adding that “the meeting focused on the steps needed to reach a comprehensive political settlement of the Syrian crisis that would achieve national reconciliation, and contribute to the return of Syria to its Arab fold”.
The two sides also discussed “the importance of enhancing security and combating terrorism in all its forms, enhancing cooperation in combating drug smuggling and trafficking, as well as the need to support the Syrian state to extend its control over its territories to end the presence of armed militias and external interference in the Syrian internal affairs,” the Syrian state media said for its part.
More is about to come to extend Riyadh-Damascus relations
Aside from the new level of trust and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Syria that was announced Thursday, the former is hosting the next Arab League summit in this coming May, where it is highly expected that the members adopt a restoration and accept Syria’s membership in the League, a move that would formally end Syria’s regional isolation. Good to mention that two days before Mekdad’s trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting of regional foreign ministers in the same city, where they discussed Syria’s return to the League.
Back in 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted, Arab states suspended the Assad government from the League under the justification that he ordered attacks against his own people who were protesting against the government in Damascus, claims that Assad has denied categorically. In addition to ousting Syria from the 22-member Arab League, the Persian Gulf state also imposed severe political and economic sanctions against Syria, leaving Syrian people in misery for so many years since the start of the civil war.
However, in recent years, as ISIS lost ground in Syria and Assad consolidated control over most of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement. The overtures have picked up pace since the massive February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The visit to Saudi Arabia came after Tunisian President Kais Saied announced earlier this month that he had directed the country’s foreign ministry to appoint a new ambassador to Syria. In response, Syria announced on Wednesday that it will reopen its embassy in Tunisia, which cut off relations in 2012.