Saudi Arabia appoints first ambassador to Syria since 2012

Saudi Arabia appoints first ambassador to Syria since 2012

/ 07:17 AM May 27, 2024

This handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on November 11, 2023, shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) speaking with Syria's president Bashar al-Assad during an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Riyadh.

This handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on November 11, 2023, shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) speaking with Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad during an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Riyadh. Arab leaders and Iran’s president are in the Saudi capital on November 11, for a summit meeting expected to underscore demands that Israel’s war in Gaza end before the violence draws in other countries. The emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) comes after Hamas militants’ bloody October 7 attacks that Israeli officials say left about 1,200 people dead and 239 taken hostage. (Photo by SAUDI PRESS AGENCY / AFP)

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced the appointment of its first ambassador to Syria since severing ties with Damascus in 12 years, marking an ongoing thawing in relations since the war-torn country was readmitted to the Arab League over a year ago.

Faisal al-Mujfel’s appointment as the kingdom’s first ambassador to Syria since 2012 was announced by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. It comes over a year after Syria was readmitted to the 22-member Arab League. It remained suspended from the group for more than a decade over President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2011. Riyadh severed ties with Damascus in 2012.

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Syrian state media and authorities did not immediately comment on the development.

The uprising turned-civil war in Syria, now in its 14th year has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. It has long remained largely frozen and so have been efforts to find a viable political solution to end it.

A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in February 2023 that rocked Turkey and northern Syria was a catalyst for most Arab countries to reinstate ties with President Assad.

In March 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after talks in Beijing, marking a major diplomatic breakthrough with an aim to reduce conflict between the two countries.

Iran has been a key political and military ally for the Assad government in Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2015 in an attempt to restore the internationally-recognized government. The conflict has turned in recent years into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week met with United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as they edge closer to a wide-ranging security agreement, which Saudi state media said includes ending Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, delivering aid to the battered territory, and a two-state solution that “meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

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