By Ali Karbalaei

Arab nations warming up to Syria

February 28, 2023 - 22:36

TEHRAN- In further signs of warming ties with the country, more Arab diplomats have made trips to Damascus for the first time since the 2011 war on Syria.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has visited Syria for the first time since 2011. Shoukry’s trip took place a day after delegations of Arab parliamentary speakers and lawmakers made an official joint trip to Damascus.

After holding meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad, Shoukry affirmed that Egypt will do everything it can to help Syria and stressed Cairo’s efforts to do everything that would serve the interests of its “brotherly people”.

The Syrian Presidency’s office said Shoukry also conveyed a message from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to his Syrian counterpart, affirming his pride in the historical ties between Syria and Egypt as well as Cairo's keenness to develop those relations.

Al-Assad, for his part, noted that working to improve relations between Arab countries is the foundation for improving the situation in the region.

Egypt has vowed to assist Syria following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake which hit the northern region of the country on February 6.

An Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman explained, "this visit aims to convey a message of solidarity from Egypt with the two countries (Syria and Turkey) following the disaster of the earthquake, which left heavy losses in both countries."

Syrian-Arab relations have further improved after the deadly earthquake, which saw regional countries sending humanitarian aid amid U.S. sanctions.

As Syrian government forces emerge victorious over foreign-backed militants and terrorists, Arab countries are warming up to the country, especially after Abu Dhabi reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018.The Egyptian foreign minister’s trip came a day after President al-Assad welcomed the heads and members of Arab parliamentary delegations in Damascus.

The Syrian President told the delegations their "visit confirms there are effective Arab institutions that are able, in various circumstances, to take the initiative and move in the interest of the Arab people." He also expressed his "gratitude for the rapid response shown by the Arab countries at domestic and governmental levels, to help the Syrian people overcome the effects of the earthquake."

The first meeting included the President of the Arab Parliamentary Union, Muhammad al-Halbousi (who is also Iraq's parliament speaker), and the heads of parliaments from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Palestine, Libya and Egypt, in addition to the heads of the delegations of the Sultanate of Oman and Lebanon, and the Secretary-General of the Arab Parliamentary Union.

In a second expanded meeting, the heads and members of the delegations traveled to Damascus on a visit of solidarity after the tragic earthquake left around 7,000 people dead and caused large-scale infrastructure damage.

Al-Assad pointed out that "this visit of the Arab delegations to Syria means a lot to the Syrian people because it gives an indication of the support of its Arab brothers in the difficult circumstances it has been exposed to as a result of the terrorist war and the repercussions of the earthquake."

For his part, the head of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, al-Halbousi, affirmed that "the delegation came to Syria on behalf of all members of the union, to assure the Syrian people of the step towards the process of standing with Syria and the solidarity with its people, (a step) which opens its doors to all Arabs at various stages."

Al-Halbousi added "this visit also came to confirm the importance of working at all levels in order for Damascus to return to exercising its active role in the Arab world."

Likewise, the members of the delegations affirmed "their readiness to provide all possible support so that the Syrian people can overcome this ordeal, because Syria never stopped serving the causes of the Arab nations." They also expressed their belief that the Syrian people "are able to overcome the effects of the earthquake, just as they were able to confront the war and the siege imposed on them."

The Iraqi parliament announced that a delegation from the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union had gone to Syria to confirm its support for it and stand with its people.

Shortly after the earthquake struck Syria, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament called on the Arab countries to adopt a final decision to return Syria to the Arab League, to end the repercussions of its crisis and get rid of differences in order to achieve stability and security in the region.

During his speech at the 34th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in Baghdad on Saturday, al-Halbousi said that "the time has come for the Arab House to unite efforts and put aside differences, to stand up to the current challenges internationally and regionally, by formulating a comprehensive and realistic strategy towards the outstanding problems for a long term."

He warned "the world today is going through very difficult circumstances, which require participatory action, exceptional efforts, and intensification of efforts to achieve stability and security."

The Iraqi Parliament chief addressed the overall situation in Syria after the earthquake, noting that the country had already "passed through difficult circumstances."

He pointed out "all of this obliges us all to seek and continue the duty of support until the repercussions of the crisis and its difficult effects are cleared."

Likewise, he appealed to the Arab world to work hard "to restore stability in Syria, to rehabilitate its infrastructure, and to return its citizens, who were displaced by the war, to their homes and country with dignity."

On February 14, the military advisor to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mahmoud Khalifa, said that Syria's return to the league "will come soon."

As Syrian government forces emerge victorious over foreign-backed militants and terrorists, Arab countries have been warming up to the country, especially after Abu Dhabi reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018.

The tiny Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain decided to fully restore diplomatic relations with the Syrian government by appointing a new ambassador to its embassy in Damascus on 30 December 2021.

In January 2023, the Syrian leader received the UAE foreign minister in Damascus in another sign of growing ties between Damascus and the Arab state.

The Syrian news agency SANA said they discussed regional and international developments and economic relations.

The UAE has an embassy in Damascus, and Syria has an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate-general in Dubai.

It was Abdullah bin Zayed's first visit since a November 2021 meeting with al-Assad that restored relations. Months later, in March 2022, al-Assad visited the UAE, his first trip to an Arab state since the start of the war on Syria.

In 2011, foreign-backed militants and terrorists wreaked havoc in the country that has left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead and sent millions fleeing.

Other countries have also taken steps toward resuming diplomatic ties with the Syrian government.

Critics say the country and its people were neglected by the region during its hours of need over the past decade; with the exception of a few countries who came to Syria’s rescue in its battle against terrorism, namely Iran, Lebanon, Russia and Iraq.

Syria has also faced heavy unilateral sanctions by the U.S., whose military presence in the country’s east has seen billions of dollars of oil wealth plundered. Funds that could have gone to rebuilding vital infrastructure and services.

Washington has also voiced strong opposition to any moves toward rehabilitating or resuming ties with the Syrian government. 


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