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Saudi foreign minister: Syria could return to Arab League, but not yet

Update : 08 Mar 2023, 09:45

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Tuesday said increased engagement with Syria might pave the way for its return to the Arab League as ties thaw after more than a decade of isolation, but it was currently too early to discuss such a step.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud reiterated that consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed, especially to address the humanitarian situation there.

"An engagement in order to address these concerns is necessary. And that may well lead eventually to Syria returning to the Arab League et cetera. But for now, I think it's too early to discuss," he told reporters in London.

Syria was largely isolated from the rest of the Arab world following Assad's deadly crackdown against protests that erupted against his rule in 2011.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in 2011 and many Arab countries pulled their envoys out of Damascus.

But Assad has benefited from an outpouring of support from Arab states following the devastating earthquake on Feb. 6, which killed thousands of Syrians.

Algeria hosted the first Arab League summit since before the Covid-19 pandemic in November, though Damascus stayed away after Algeria failed to persuade other Arab states to end Syria's suspension.

Saudi Arabia will host this year's Arab League summit. Asked whether Syria would be welcome, Prince Faisal said: "I think it's too early to talk about that."

"But I can say that ... that there is a consensus building in the Arab world, that the status quo is not tenable. And that means we have to find a way to move beyond that status quo." 

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