(Photo Credit: Reuters)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on 7 March said that a consensus is growing across the Arab world that isolating Syria is not “tenable” anymore.
“There is a consensus building in the Arab world that the status quo is not tenable. And that means we have to find a way to move beyond that status quo,” the Saudi official told reporters in the UK about the western-backed blockade imposed on the Levantine nation.
Nonetheless, the kingdom’s top diplomat added that while increased engagement with Damascus might pave the way for its return to the Arab League, it was still “too early” to discuss such a step.
“An engagement in order to address these concerns is necessary. And that may well lead eventually to Syria returning to the Arab League, et cetera. But for now, I think it’s too early to discuss,” Bin Farhan said.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 following the start of the western-backed war, with many Arab countries pulling their envoys out of Damascus.
However, this situation started to change over the past two years as several nations in West Asia recognized the failure of the western-backed war and began to rebuild ties with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, chief among them Jordan, Bahrain, and the UAE.
Following last month’s devastating earthquake that decimated large swathes of Turkiye and Syria, Damascus saw an outpouring of support from Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.
Last month, Bin Farhan said during the Munich Security Conference that the isolation of Damascus is no longer feasible and that dialogue is needed “at some point” to, at the very least, address humanitarian issues such as refugee repatriation.
On 16 January, two weeks before the earthquake, Syrian media reported that the foreign ministry had agreed to resume imports from Saudi Arabia. A few days later, Bin Farhan said in an interview that the kingdom was ‘working towards’ engagement with the Damascus government after over a decade of animosity and severed relations.
Saudi Arabia was one of the principal instigators of the war in Syria through its support for extremist militants.
In 2010, Saudi intelligence helped Washington resurrect the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) movement, the precursor of ISIS, as part of a regime change effort targeting the Syrian government. ISI militants were active in Syria as early as 2011 while anti-government protests were ongoing.
Riyadh has also backed Jaish al-Islam, an extremist opposition group that openly called for genocide against minorities and has used civilians as human shields.