Saudi Arabia welcomes Syria’s Assad in Arab summit after years of ban. Years after the deadly civil war which led to the expulsion of Syria from the Arab League, President Bashar al-Assad received a warm welcome from Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) Friday at the summit in Jeddah.

“We are pleased today by the attendance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in this summit,” Prince MBS, the Saudi ruler, said in a speech, adding “he hoped the return would lead to stability.”

The Arab League huddle was expected to discuss the issues regarding Yemen and the deadly conflict underway in Sudan between the two powerful factions.

Syrian President Assad became the first to participate in the Arab summit after the civil war that started in 2011, devastating the country and forcing millions to flee to the neighbouring countries, leaving another 6 million internally displaced.

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After reaching Jeddah Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said: “We express our happiness and pleasure to be on the kingdom’s soil. This summit is very important. The Syrian delegation was here to make this summit a success.”

This picture shows Deputy Emir of Mecca Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz (C) welcoming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) in Jeddah. — AFP

The summit came as the world’s largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia has become diplomatically active in the Middle East and beyond.

The streets of the Saudi city displayed the flags of the Arab League states including Syria, as Al-Riyadh newspaper declared Friday it would be “the summit of all summits”.

The high-level meeting also took place months after China mediated a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March that established the diplomatic relations between the two arch-rivals.

Since the normalisation between Riyadh and Tehran, the kingdom also resumed its ties with Damascus, increasing its efforts to seek peace in Yemen.

Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee (c), Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (right), and national security adviser of Saudi Arabia Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban in Beijing, China March 10, 2023. — Reuters

The kingdom also played a constructive role in civilian evacuation operations from Sudan when the fighting erupted in April and hosted the warring parties of the North African country to engage in talks and launch a ceasefire.

Kuwaiti writer Jawad Ahmed Bukhamseen gushed in an op-ed this week in the private Saudi newspaper Okaz: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become, in the eyes of all observers, the peacemaker and the icon of harmony, calling for an end to differences and the elimination of conflicts.”

During the Arab League meeting, there is a likely discussion on issues like the war in Ukraine and “the global economic crisis”, Khaled Manzlawiy, the bloc’s assistant secretary general for political affairs, wrote Wednesday in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“Indeed, the entire world is undergoing a perilous stage in history as the maps of international relations are redrawn,” he wrote, adding that Arab unity can give the region “a voice that is heard not only in the region but also across the globe.”

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