- Saudi Arabia has invited Syrian President Bashar Assad to attend the upcoming Arab League summit on May 19 in Jeddah.
- Syria’s popular uprising has escalated into a vicious civil war that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
- Some analysts said Syria’s reintegration into the Arab League is largely symbolic and predicted a tangible resolution could take some time.
Saudi Arabia has invited Syrian President Bashar Assad to an upcoming Arab League summit in the oil-rich kingdom, the Syrian president’s office said on Wednesday. The news comes as Damascus continues to slowly return to the Arab fold after a 12-year period of political isolation.
Assad received the invitation just days after the Arab League reinstated Syria’s membership in the organization during a meeting in Cairo Sunday. Syria’s membership was suspended for brutally crushing mass protests against Assad in 2011. Since then, the uprising has escalated into a vicious civil war that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of the pre-war population of 23 millions.
The next summit will take place in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on May 19.
Assad’s office has released photos of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan delivering the invitation. It has not been clarified whether Assad will attend the summit.
Saudi Arabia had been a key backer of armed opposition groups attempting to overthrow the warring Syrian president, but had called for dialogue in recent months. The Syrian foreign minister paid a visit to the kingdom on Tuesday, the first in more than a decade, while Riyadh and Damascus announced on Tuesday they would reopen their embassies and restore diplomatic ties.
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Jordan and Egypt have also renewed ties with Damascus, following normalization efforts by the UAE and Bahrain years ago.
There is still no consensus on the restoration of ties with Damascus among the Arab countries. Kuwait, Morocco and Qatar remain the main opposing voices. Qatar remains a key backer of rebel groups in war-torn Syria.
Some analysts said Syria’s reintegration into the Arab League is largely symbolic and predicted a tangible resolution could take some time. Jordan earlier this month hosted talks with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq as part of an Arab-led initiative to reach a political settlement to the Syrian conflict.
The meeting also discussed other regional issues, such as refugees and drug trafficking.