May 30, 2023

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Saudi Arabia and Syria resume ties amid Middle East changes | Athalayar

The domino effect triggered by the diplomatic thaw between Iran and Saudi Arabia threatens to bring down a new player: Syria.. Bashar al-Assad’s government, under Tehran’s influence, is poised to restore bilateral ties with Riyadh. “Discussions are underway with the Syrian authorities to resume diplomatic services as part of the Kingdom’s desire to facilitate the provision of necessary diplomatic services between the two countries,” confirmed the anchor of Al-Eqbariya TV channel. Morning news broadcast. The parties consider the historic agreement to close a chapter of alliances drawn by the Arab Spring.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Russia’s intervention was decisive in blocking the negotiations. Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of his Syrian counterpart’s recent visit to the Kremlin to discuss the terms of an agreement with Saudi Arabia. Iran did the rest. Ibrahim Raisi’s government has conveyed to Damascus the importance of reopening diplomatic channels with Riyadh after the signing. His own fight with the Desert Kingdom in Beijing. They are not the only ones putting pressure on al-Assad. Arab countries Oman and Jordan, which have a long tradition of conflict mediation, also promoted reconciliation.

Photo/Ukrainian Presidential News Service via REUTERS – Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia

The names of Maher al-Assad and Hussam Luqa appear in the negotiations. The president’s younger brother, a senior military commander linked to Iranian interests and head of Mukhabar, the regime’s intelligence service, reportedly led the Syrian delegation in a series of talks with the Saudis in Riyadh and Moscow. According to sources consulted by the Wall Street Journal, there was intent Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visits Damascus to present the deal, scheduled for late April. We will have to wait, but the Kingdom’s diplomatic chief has already abandoned the status quo with Syria in his speech at the Munich Security Conference.

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Damascus wants Riyadh to stop funding rebel fighters still active in Syria. For its part, Riyadh wants to close the files on Saudi prisoners held for serving in the ranks of Islamic fundamentalist groups involved in the civil war, Reuters reported. The talks also covered security infrastructure on Syria’s border with Jordan and the smuggling of Captagon, a so-called jihadist drug, from Syria.

“Prior to the 2011 revolution and apparent Iranian intervention, Syria was a member of the Arab polity and was allowed to play a dominant role in post-civil war Lebanon, helping to strengthen Hezbollah,” analyst Aaron Lund recalls in Al Pages. – Monitoring. The Arab Spring changed everything. Riyadh has bankrolled Syrian rebels who have taken up arms against the Assad regime, while Damascus relies on Tehran and Moscow to maintain power.

Flags of Syria and Saudi Arabia
AFP/ FAYEZ NURELDINE & DELIL SOULEIMAN – Saudi Arabia and Syria are in talks to resume diplomatic services, more than a decade after the Gulf kingdom cut ties with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Saudi state media said on March 23, 2023.

“Relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria have always been difficult, alternating for decades between periods of relative reconciliation — during which Riyadh often offered small gifts to the cash-strapped Assad regime — and fierce competition. While neither regime liked the other very much, until 2011, when Riyadh backed calls for Assad’s ouster. , and in the years that followed, ties were not completely severed. Saudi money used to fund rebels”adds Lund.

Saudi Arabia promoted Syria’s expulsion from the Arab League, ultimately prompting the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters to demand his resignation. Most of the organization’s members joined the Syrian rebels, leading to the final exodus from Damascus in 2011. But in this new situation, Syria can regain its place Despite the distrust Assad arouses in some regional circles. Others, on the other hand, are betting on his return after a decade of turmoil. The Syrian president’s participation in the next summit in Saudi Arabia in May will restore him as the right interlocutor.

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Hossein Amiraptullahian
REUTERS/Firas Makdes – Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amiraptollahian speaks during a joint press conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mehdath in Damascus, Syria on March 9, 2023.

“The deal was negotiated in Beijing [qui a certifié le rétablissement des relations diplomatiques entre l’Iran et l’Arabie saoudite] It would help the Syrian regime to restore itself to the Arab political order, although this process began before the parties met in the Chinese capital (…) was the original, if not the main, impetus for this return. “A Radical Change Among Arab States Regarding Relations With Syria”, writes Imad Harb, a researcher at the Arab Center in Washington. Indeed, the campaign to rescue Assad is the work of the UAE. A few years ago, Emirati diplomacy embarked on a policy of appeasement with its neighbours. Restoring relations with Syria is “part of the plan,” says Tina Espandieri, a researcher at the Crisis Group.

Catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria accelerated this movement. North of Syria was attacked Received humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia. The desert kingdom sent a plane loaded with food and medical supplies to Aleppo airport. Assad used the wave of international solidarity to advance his own agenda and reconnect with a neighborhood that had hitherto been openly hostile to him. He received the Jordanian and United Arab Emirates foreign ministers in Damascus and spoke on the phone for the first time with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He later visited Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Later, he was accompanied by his wife.

Earthquake in Syria
Photo/Sana via AP – Syrian soldiers unload humanitarian aid sent by Saudi Arabia to Syria after a devastating earthquake, in this photo released by Syria’s official SANA news agency, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Aleppo airport, Syria.

“What seems certain is that the Syrian regime succeeded not only in overcoming Arab objections to its rehabilitation, but also in preserving its close ties with Iran, while gaining Russian support to counterbalance the Islamic Republic’s influence in the country,” Harb said. “Assad is under no obligation to cut ties with Iran. Iran’s role and influence in Syria continues apace, weakened by twelve years of civil war and economic and physical destruction, and the Syrian president is unable to distance himself from Tehran, as some Arab regimes would like him to do.”

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Assad is coming out strong, but Mohammed bin Salman is not far behind. The crown prince, the real strongman of the country, takes advantage of the situation and exploits it. It is one more step in a strategy that has included a series of previous moves, including a detente with Qatar and Turkey, an ending ceasefire in Yemen with Houthi rebels, and rapprochement with Iran. A period that left its mark on foreign policy and defined its own profile vis-à-vis the US, it is again left out of the equation.