The Sirte summit in Libya in March 2010 was the last summit attended by Assad, and his participation in the summit in Jeddah comes amid a phase of Saudi diplomatic activity on several axes, most notably Iran, Yemen and Sudan.
After 13 years of absence, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, will return on Friday to participate in the Arab Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which is expected to also discuss the conflicts in Sudan and Yemen.
Al-Assad arrived in the coastal city of Jeddah on the Red Sea on Thursday evening to attend the annual summit of the League of Arab States, in his first participation since Damascus was suspended in 2011 in response to its suppression of popular protests that took to the streets before turning into a bloody conflict that claimed the lives of more than half a million people. .
“We express our happiness with our presence in Saudi Arabia. This summit is very important,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad, after his arrival in Jeddah a few days ago. “We wish this summit every success.”
The Sirte summit in Libya in March 2010 was the last summit that Assad attended.
However, efforts to reintegrate Assad into the Arab incubator are not welcomed at the regional and international levels.
Qatar, openly opposed to Assad, announced that it would not normalize relations with the Damascus government, but indicated that it would not be an “obstacle” to the step taken by the Arab League.
On Thursday, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, announced in a statement that he would lead his country’s delegation to the Arab summit.
For its part, Washington on Wednesday reaffirmed its position that it “does not believe that Syria deserves to be returned to the Arab League.” “We will not work to normalize relations with the Assad regime and we certainly don’t support others to do either,” said foreign ministry spokesman Vedant Patel.
Saudi diplomatic activity
In addition to the normalization of relations with Damascus, two major crises are expected to top the agenda of the summit: the month-long conflict in Sudan between the army led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces led by Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, and the ongoing conflict in Yemen for more than eight years. .
Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the Arab summit comes as Riyadh displays its diplomatic influence in the Middle East and beyond, after a number of diplomatic initiatives sparked by the sudden announcement of the normalization of relations with Iran, mediated by China, in March.
Since then, Riyadh has restored diplomatic relations with Syria and intensified its diplomatic efforts to push for peace in Yemen, where it leads a military coalition against the Iran-backed Houthis.
Riyadh also played a central role in the evacuations of civilians from Sudan when fighting suddenly broke out last month, and is currently hosting representatives from both sides of the conflict in order to reach a truce.
This is what prompted Kuwaiti writer Jawad Ahmed Bukhamseen to say that Saudi Arabia has become a “peacemaker”.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become, in the eyes of all observers and followers, the peacemaker and the icon of harmony, calling for an end to differences and the elimination of conflicts,” he wrote in the Saudi newspaper Okaz on Wednesday.