Syria’s Assad arrives to Saudi Arabia for Arab league summit
DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived to the Saudi city of Jeddah on Thursday to attend the Arab League summit the following day, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV and Syrian State TV reported.
Saudi Arabia invited Assad to attend the summit after Arab states agreed to reinstate Syria’s full membership of the league, following 12 years of suspension over his crackdown on protests against him.
The host of today’s summit, Saudi Arabia, has championed Assad’s return to the pan-Arab body and invited the Syrian leader over the objection of other regional leaders.
The Syrian government had been isolated in the region for years since its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011 triggered a war that has killed more than 500,000 people.
Analysts said Assad’s invitation also shows the clout of Saudi Arabia, which is casting itself as a peacemaker and asserting itself in multiple crises across the Middle East.
Following a preparatory meeting on Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told reporters Assad would attend today’s event in Jeddah in person.Washington, however, said it did “not believe that Syria merits readmission to the Arab League”.
“We are not going to normalise relations with the Assad regime and we certainly don’t support others doing that as well,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington, United States (US). Beyond rekindling ties with the Assad government, the summit is expected to devote energy to two conflicts: a month-long war between two generals in Sudan and the eight-year civil war in Yemen.
It is taking place in the same city where representatives of the two Sudanese camps have been locked in negotiations for a week and a half brokered by Saudi and US officials.
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