Arab League rules out Syria's return until 'consensus exists'
The Arab League said on Thursday that there was no consensus on whether Syria should return to the regional bloc, more than a decade after it was suspended from the league.
The body's secretary-general, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said the question of whether Syria could rejoin was "not discussed" during a meeting between Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday, and that the issue should be decided "bilaterally between Arab countries" and if "a consensus exists" then Syria will return.
However, he noted that he had yet to see such a consensus.
The Arab League also announced it would hold its annual summit in Algeria on 1 November, after a three year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Syria was suspended from the 22-member Arab League in November 2011, following the start of the country's civil war. Sparked by the brutal repression of anti-government protests that same year, the war has killed an estimated 500,000 people and displaced millions.
Stay informed with MEE's newsletters
Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked
However, in recent months, several Arab countries have begun to engage with the Syrian government, including Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Emirati foreign minister travelled to Damascus in November and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Diplomats have been reportedly working behind the scenes on a mechanism and gaining consensus on Damascus' return to the Arab League.
Syria remains unstable and crippled by poverty and western sanctions, but Assad is in control of most of the country, making him a viable ally in the region despite the previous animosity between himself and Arab leaders.
A major obstacle, however, is the US, which in 2019 passed the Caesar Act, a law designed to make it difficult for the Syrian government to trade with the outside world and engage in reconstruction efforts.
Another obstacle is Saudi Arabia, a regional heavyweight and a founding member of the Arab League, which has clearly stated its opposition to Syria's reinstatement.
Analysts have said that getting Syria back into the fold of the body will be difficult without the support of Riyadh, with the kingdom's representative to the UN in December issuing a stern rebuke of Damascus.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.