(Photo credit: Hussein Malla/AP)
The spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, Ahmad al-Sahhaf, announced that the Arab foreign ministers who met on Sunday behind closed doors in the Egyptian capital Cairo have agreed on the return of Syria to the Arab League after nearly 12 years of suspension.
Sources told Russian news outlet Sputnik earlier on 7 May that after consultations among the foreign ministers, the “majority” supported the return of Syria to the Arab League.
According to an anonymous Egyptian diplomat, Syria’s return to the organization will be “conditional” and must depend on “the return of Syrian refugees without retributions, a credible political process that leads to elections and steps to end the smuggling of narcotics from Syria into neighboring countries,” The National reported.
Lebanese news agency LBCI reported that during the meeting, it was agreed that Lebanon would join a ‘crisis resolution committee for Syria,’ which includes Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the session that a political solution was the only way forward. A military solution in Syria is “unrealistic,” Shoukry said.
However, he also stressed the utmost importance of securing “the elimination of terrorism” in Syria, which is still a major issue given the control of extremist armed groups over certain areas in the country.
On Friday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that Syria had secured enough votes from the 22-member Arab body.
“Symbolically, it will be important, but that is only a very humble beginning of what will be a very long and difficult and challenging process, given the complexity of the crisis,” Safadi told CNN.
The decision comes several days after a meeting of regional diplomats in Jordan’s capital Amman, which was also attended by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. The meeting focused on the importance of solving the humanitarian, political, and security crises in the country.
It also paved the way for Sunday’s official decision to reinstate Damascus into Arab League.
As a result of the closed-door meeting in Egypt – which is expected to be followed up with a public session – many expect that Syria will be present at this month’s Arab League summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
This is the latest step in the Arab world’s recent embrace of Syria, which has seen Saudi Arabia – once a principal backer of the US-sponsored war against the country – lead a regional initiative to end the crisis.
However, Washington and a few Arab states, namely Qatar, continue to stand against normalization with the Damascus government.