Syria chooses to remain out of Arab League amid mixed reactions.


As the Arab League summit in Algeria, which is scheduled for the beginning of November, draws close, the country’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced last Sunday that, “Syria prefers not to propose its return to the League of Arab States during the next summit amid Algeria’s efforts in the Arab world to achieve the possible limit of Arab consensus on various issues.”

Lamamra said that the Syrian regime’s foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, told him during a call that “his country prefers not to raise the issue of returning to its seat in the Arab League during the November summit in order to contribute to the goal of uniting the Arab world in the face of the challenges imposed by the current situation on the Arab world,” in a regional and international manner.

The League of Arab States made the decision on Nov. 12, 2011, to suspend the Syrian regime’s membership in the league, with the approval of 18 countries, and the objection of three others: Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and Iraq’s abstention from voting, over “the campaign launched by the Syrian regime to suppress the protests.”

Algeria’s position
On Aug. 5, Algeria confirmed that its support for Syria’s return to its seat in the Arab League “will not be at the expense of the Arab consensus, which it wishes to achieve at the possible limit during the next summit.”

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune also reiterated in a television interview that Syria is entitled to its seat as a “founding member of the commission” but also revealed that the final decision on whether to return or not has not yet been decided.

Countries that support the return
Algeria is one of several Arab countries that has expressed its support for restoring the Syrian regime to the league, along with countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman, in addition to the countries that began the “normalization” with Syria. The support came after Syria’s ally Russia helped it regain control of Damascus and the Homs countryside in 2018, before regaining other areas in September 2020 in the countryside of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo. Among the countries that have normalized relations with Syria are the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Jordan.

Iraq’s position was revealed in April 2021. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was hosting the secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, announced in Baghdad that the country supported Syria’s return to the League of Arab States.

Lebanon also supported the return of Syria to the league and was even opposed to freezing its membership. On Sept. 4, 2011, a Lebanese ministerial delegation visited Damascus, while Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib said in December 2021 that his country supports the return of Syria to the Arab League.

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The Sultanate of Oman is one of the few Arab countries that maintained diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime after 2011 and has repeatedly expressed its support for the return of the Syrian regime to its seat in the Arab League, especially considering the exchange of visits between foreign ministers. In 2015, then-Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi visited Damascus, while his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, visited the Sultanate of Oman in July 2021.

Egypt’s position changes
Egypt was one of the countries supporting the return of the Syrian regime to the league. On March 20, 2019, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that Cairo “does not have any conditions for Syria’s return.”

However, the Egyptian position witnessed a change in the past months. On July 4, the website “Intelligence Online,” quoting its own sources, revealed that “Cairo is now opposed to the return of Damascus to the Arab League.”

Countries that reject the return of Syria
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia opposes the return of the Syrian regime to its seat in the Arab League and sets conditions for its return and the normalization of relations with it, the most important of which is to distance itself from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, according to observers.

In November 2011, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan stated that Riyadh is not considering dealing with the head of the Syrian regime, Assad.

According to observers, the Saudi position on the Syrian regime will impede Syria’s return to the Arab summit in that “its return requires unanimous approval, not a majority.”

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the role of Qatar, which rejects the return of the Syrian regime, has drawn attention. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani has stated this more than once. Last December, he said that “his country’s position regarding the Syrian regime’s participation in the next session of the League of Arab States in Algeria has not changed,” noting that “the reasons for which Damascus’ membership was suspended are still valid.”

No consensus among Arab states
Meanwhile, Kuwait, Palestine, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia, Comoros and Somalia have still not announced their position on the return of the Syrian regime to the Arab League.

All these countries’ stances, especially those of the countries that influence the decision-making in the Arab League, concluded with the statement of the assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, on June 23.

In the statement, Zaki said that Syria’s return to its seat “needs an Arab consensus that is not currently available,” noting that “there are different visions about its return,” and that “in the event that the General Secretariat of the League observes the necessary consensus among the Arab states, the steps will be taken immediately.”





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