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24 Mar, 2023 15:50

Saudi Arabia and Syria to restore ties – media

The reported development comes after Riyadh signed a similar deal with Tehran
Saudi Arabia and Syria to restore ties – media

Saudi Arabia and Syria will reopen their embassies after more than a decade of hostility, according to reports from multiple news outlets. The potential thaw comes after a landmark Chinese-brokered deal set the path for normalization of relations between the Saudi kingdom and Iran, bitter rivals who backed opposing sides in Syria’s civil war.

The two nations are preparing to reopen their respective embassies after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in April, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a “source aligned with Damascus.” A second Syria-linked source told the agency that the breakthrough came after talks in Saudi Arabia involving a senior Syrian intelligence official.

Saudi sources appeared to confirm the news later on Thursday night, with a foreign-ministry official telling state TV that “discussions are underway with officials in Syria to resume consular services.”

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus and expelled the Syrian ambassador in 2012, as the kingdom sided with militias seeking to overthrow Bashar Assad’s government. The Syrian conflict drew a dividing line through the Middle East. Iran and Russia backed Assad while the US, Saudi Arabia, and most Arab states supported the opposition forces – a broad collective of militias, including hardline jihadists.

News of the apparent diplomatic thaw comes after Saudi Arabia and Iran announced earlier this month that they would reopen their respective embassies and commit to “non-interference” in each other’s affairs, following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. A Syria-linked source told Reuters that this agreement built “momentum” for an agreement between Riyadh and Damascus.

Prior to the Chinese-brokered deal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said earlier this month that Syria could eventually return to the Arab League, from which it was expelled in 2011. Assad has also traveled to Oman and the United Arab Emirates in the last month, his only two foreign trips to Arab states since 2011. Abu Dhabi normalized relations with Damascus in 2018.

Syria is heavily sanctioned by the US, a situation that would hinder foreign investment after any diplomatic normalization. Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, a US State Department official said that Washington’s opposition to normalization “remains unchanged.”