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Diplomats to discuss Syria’s return to Arab league after more than a decade


Diplomats from Arab countries are planning an emergency meeting in Cairo this weekend on the fighting in Sudan and the prospect of Syria’s return to the Arab League more than a decade after its membership was suspended, an official said on Friday. responsible.

Sunday’s meeting, confirmed by Arab League spokesman Gamal Rushdy, comes as some Arab countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have opened relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad and their foreign ministers Foreign Affairs have visited Damascus in recent weeks. The Syrian foreign minister also visited Cairo and the Saudi capital of Riyadh in April, the first such visits in more than a decade.

Syria’s membership in the 22-member Arab League was suspended in the early months of the war 12 years ago, and Arab countries subsequently imposed economic sanctions. The conflict has killed nearly half a million people since March 2011 and displaced half of the country’s 23 million people before the war.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit on May 19, when Syria’s membership is expected to be on the table. Some members, primarily gas-rich Qatar, opposed Damascus’ return to the organization.

In November 2011, 18 of the 22 Arab League members supported suspending Syria’s membership. Lebanon, Yemen and Syria voted against the decision, while Iraq abstained.

The Sunday meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo will focus on restoring Syria’s membership and comes at the request of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Rushdy said.

Asked about the vote count, Rushdy said Arab League decisions are usually resolutions made by consensus, but each country has the right to submit its reservations.

In recent years, as Assad has consolidated his control over most of the country with the help of his main allies, Russia and Iran, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps towards rapprochement. Overtures have accelerated since the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the restoration of China-brokered ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Syria and Saudi Arabia said last month they were moving towards reopening embassies and resuming flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a decade.

Syrian pro-government daily Al-Watan reported on Friday that a delegation from the Foreign Ministry recently visited the Syrian embassy in Riyadh in preparation for the mission’s reopening in the coming weeks.

The foreign ministers will also discuss Sudan, which has descended into chaos since fighting erupted in mid-April between the country’s two top rival generals, killing more than 400 people. The conflict began on April 15, preceded by months of escalating tensions between the army, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and a rival paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting turned urban areas into battlefields and foreign governments rushed to evacuate their diplomats and thousands of foreign nationals out of Sudan.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.