Although Washington openly asserted this Friday that it will not normalize relations with the Syrian government, Arab states are moving in the exact opposite direction and just re-admitted Damascus into the Arab League.
This Friday, the US State Department issued a statement and asserted that Washington has no intention whatsoever to normalize relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As the statement noted, US secretary of state Antony Blinken discussed a recent meeting in Amman between Syria and its Arab neighbors during a phone call with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi. “Secretary Blinken made clear that the United States will not normalize relations with the Assad regime and does not support others normalizing until there is authentic, UN-facilitated political progress in line with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2254,” the statement said.
The 2254 UNSC resolution, which was adopted back in 2015, calls for free and fair elections in Syria under UN supervision as the most secure way to get the Arab country out of political crisis. The Syrian government remains under heavy US sanctions aimed at isolating the country economically in response to what Washington calls ‘human rights violations’.
Earlier this week, Blinken said the US was “engaged” with the Syrian government to secure the release of Austin Tice, an American journalist who disappeared in Syria in 2012. US officials have accused the Syrian government of detaining Tice, a claim that Damascus has denied. “We’re extensively engaged with regard to Austin – engaged with Syria, engaged with third countries – seeking to find a way to get him home. And we’re not going to relent until we do,” Blinken said on Wednesday.
Arab states embrace Syria against the US will
While Washington made it 100% clear this Friday that it won’t retore ties with Syria, Arab states are moving in the opposite direction as they just welcomed Damascus back to the Arab League this Sunday. Last week, the foreign ministers of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan met for talks in the Jordanian capital to discuss bringing al-Assad’s government back into the Arab fold.
The talks were successful as this Sunday, a spokesperson for the league announced in a statement that foreign ministers of the above-mentioned countries in Cairo voted to return Syria to the Arab League after a 12-year suspension.
Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 after the start of the civil war in Syria, and many Arab states pulled their envoys out of Damascus. But now, despite repeated objections from the United States to ending the decade-long isolation of the Syrian government, Arab states showed that they no longer value US standards in the region.
Recently, several Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have re-engaged with Syria in high-level visits and meetings, though some, including Qatar, remain opposed to full normalization without a political solution to Syria’s conflict.
Arab states have argued that the political and economic situation in Syria have been untenable and have caused them a headache at home. Good to mention that Syria has over the past decade turned into a narco-state, exporting highly addictive amphetamines across the border to Jordan and to Saudi Arabia. Officials and analysts have said that although Syria’s re-admission into the Arab League is more of a symbolic move, it can pave the way for President Bashar Al Assad’s rehabilitation internationally, and potentially the removal of crippling sanctions against his government.