Calls for Syria’s Return to Arab League to Solve Crisis

No Consensus Among Arabs On Restoring Ties with Syria
Representatives of the League of Arab states attend an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on October 12, 2019, to discuss Turkey's offensive on Syria. (Getty)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (R) hold a joint press conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on March 09, 2021. (Getty)

Over the last several days, there have been some Arab and foreign calls for Syria’s return to the Arab League after a decade-long suspension following the revolution that erupted in Syria in 2011.

A couple of weeks ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a visit to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar where he held talks with his counterparts in the three Gulf States on several matters including Syria’s return to the pan-Arab group.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan called for restoring ties between Syria and the Arab League, faulting the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019.

The Act is United States legislation that sanctions the Syrian government, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for war crimes against the Syrian population. It was signed into law by President Trump in December 2019 and came into force on June 17, 2020.

In a joint news conference with Lavrov, Sheikh Abdullah said "Syria’s return to the Arab League is a must. Therefore, the Syrian side and our colleagues in the Arab League are required to cooperate as well to make that happen."

He added that the matter is related to the interest of Syria and the interest of the region, stressing the importance of working to restore ties between Syria and the Arab League.

However, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani highlighted that the reasons behind the 2011 suspension of Syria’s membership in the Arab League remain in place.

He stressed the unity of Syria and the rejection of a military solution to the crisis, noting that there is no need for a military presence in that country.

The Russian minister said that the return of Syria to the League would have a positive impact on Middle East conditions.

In the same context, the Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that solving the Syrian crisis should be done politically, calling for the return of that country to its Arab embrace.

Last January, Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of Syria’s returning to the Arab League as soon as possible.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said Syria’s return to the Arab organization is a factor vital to maintain Arab national security and resolve the 10-year suffering of Syrians.

However, Shoukri called on the Syrian regime to show a practical will towards a political solution and reach an understanding with the national political opposition as well as halt the conflict in order to achieve national security.

Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League Ambassador Hossam Zaki said that reinstating Syria’s seat in the organization would undoubtedly contribute to normalizing Syrian-Arab relations, and gradually ending the Syrian people’s suffering through reaching a consensual political solution to this crisis.

In an exclusive statement to "Sky News Arabia," Zaki said “before talking about Syria's return, we should refer to the reasons that led to the suspension of its membership, and then adopt a new approach to find an arrangement that opens the way for unfreezing the Syrian seat.”

At the same time, Zaki revealed that there are still difficulties impeding Syria’s return to its seat, as there is no full Arab consensus on this issue.

Some Arab countries still see that the reasons for suspending the Syrian membership continue to exist as long as there is no tangible progress on the political path, he elaborated.

“After 10 years of the conflict, we still hope for a political solution to the crisis, especially after it became clear that there is no way for a military solution. Political settlement, consensus and mutual political concessions are the only solutions to the conflict,” he noted.

Meanwhile, former Assistant Foreign Minister of Egypt Ambassador Hussein Haridi said Syria’s return to the Arab League, even if it were late, is a step necessary to restore the Arab role in the Syrian civil conflict and confront the foreign intervention which has greatly contributed to complicating the situation inside Syria.

Dr. Reem Abouhossein, a specialist in African countries, told Majalla that there was foreign interference following the revolutions which erupted in the Arab countries.

“In the wake of the revolutions of the Arab countries, Iran has extended its reach into Syria, which is implemented by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in support of Bashar Al-Assad, the Houthi in Yemen, in addition to their presence in Iraq and Lebanon,” Abouhossein told Majalla.

“The recent Gulf proposal sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the meeting, with the Russian Foreign Minister as a key player in Syria, for Syria’s return to the League was on the right track as it backed the political solution of sitting down at the negotiating table to support the Syrian government’s re-imposition of its authority on all Syrian territory and reaching solutions with the Syrian opposition,” she added.

She noted that Syria’s return to the League should be with Gulf support but in exchange for Syria’s commitment to downsizing Iran’s presence in the Syrian territories.

Stability in Syria and reaching a political solution through the Arab League would lead to the whole region’s stability and also to Arab countries’ contribution to reconstructing Syria and helping it eradicate terrorism and regional ambitions, she made clear.

This also would facilitate the return of refugees after political and economic disorder is stabilized and public security is restored, Abouhossein confirmed to Majalla.

The 10-year civil war in Syria has left more than 389,000 people dead, including over 117,000 civilians, 22,000 children and 14,000 women, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country.

The war also led to the internal displacement of 6.7 million Syrians, most of whom live in camps inside Syria, and the forcible migration of about 6.6 million others in several countries across the globe, according to the UNHCR.

Turkey is hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the largest number of registered Syrian refugees.

According to the UNHCR, over 660,000 men, women and children are trapped in exile in Jordan. Nearly 80 per cent of them live outside camps, while 128,000 others have found sanctuary in refugee camps such as Za’atari and Azraq.