Arab countries have also begun earthquake diplomacy with Syria. Last Minute WORLD headlines and events
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Oman this week and his meeting with the UAE foreign minister in Damascus last week are seen by some Arab countries as an attempt to reintegrate the marginalized Syrian government into regional and international politics.
Assad’s visit to Oman on Monday marks his first official visit to Oman in more than a decade. Most Arab countries severed ties with Syria in 2011 after a crackdown on peaceful protesters.
However, experts say the February 6 earthquake that affected Turkey and Syria could give the Syrian government an opportunity to restore relations with some countries in the region.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on February 12, 2023 in Syria.
After the earthquake, many Arab countries, especially the rich states of the Persian Gulf, took steps to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria.
Earthquake diplomacy may serve a degree of integration of the Assad regime into the Arab world.
Although some Arab countries, such as the UAE and Bahrain, have re-established relations with Syria in recent years, the stalemate in the Syrian conflicts has prevented them from fully forging relations.
Assad’s visit to Oman and the UAE last year could also make it less controversial that other Arab governments have hosted the Syrian leader.
Experts predict that after the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria and the return of Damascus to the Arab League, the Assad regime will be able to achieve big breakthroughs, both of which will occur this year.
“We need to find a different approach”
Saudi Arabia, one of the centers of great power in the Middle East, took an anti-Assad stance during the civil war in Syria. One reason was that Syria was closely tied to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s biggest rival in the region.
But over the weekend, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Ferhan said the Arab world was looking to adopt a new approach to better respond to humanitarian crises in Syria, including recent earthquakes.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the Saudi minister said: “The current situation is not working. We must find a different approach. We are trying to find a formula for this approach,” he said.
Seth Franzman, director of the Middle East Center for Reports and Analysis think tank, emphasizes that Syria’s contacts with the Gulf states are important in terms of accessing the financial support needed to rebuild Syria after the civil war and earthquakes.
Faisal bin Ferhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia
Franzman said: “Gulf countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have played a key role in economic support for Egypt. “Supporting Syria will raise the view that Damascus needs to create for itself a new direction of integration with Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states,” he said.
However, the expert notes that due to the close ties between Syria and Iran, the appeal of the Persian Gulf countries to Damascus will not give political results in a short time.
US officials expressed their opposition to Syria’s rapprochement with some countries, including Turkey, and stressed that the time had not yet come to normalize relations with Damascus.
“We can only encourage the normalization or improvement of relations with Syria if the Assad regime follows the political roadmap contained in UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.
Resolution 2254, adopted in 2015, aims to end the conflicts in Syria through a political transition process.
However, Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based geopolitical risk consultancy, says that if Syria continues to restore diplomatic ties with the Middle East, he does not expect the United States to respond other than rhetorically.
As the war in Ukraine continues, while tensions between the US and China remain high and Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, an attempt to reverse the Arab countries’ trend towards normalizing relations with Assad is at the bottom of the Biden administration’s list of priorities. Cafiero says.
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