Saudi Arabia and Syria have announced that they will resume the work of their diplomatic missions in each other’s countries, ending a nearly decade-long rift that began during the Syrian civil war. The move came two days after the Arab League lifted Syria’s suspension from the bloc, paving the way for its return to the Arab fold.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the kingdom “has decided to resume the work of its diplomatic mission in Syria” and that it would seek to “develop joint Arab action”. Syria’s SANA news agency also quoted a foreign ministry source as saying that “the Syrian Arab Republic has decided to resume the work of its diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia”.
The restoration of diplomatic ties was later confirmed by both sides, and followed a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Damascus three weeks ago, the first such visit since the war broke out in 2011. During his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prince Faisal discussed steps to “achieve a comprehensive political settlement that… contributes to Syria’s return to the Arab fold”, according to the Saudi foreign ministry.
Saudi Arabia severed ties with Assad’s government in 2012 and Riyadh had long openly championed Assad’s ouster, backing Syrian rebels in earlier stages of the war. However, as Assad consolidated his grip on power with the help of Iran and Russia, Saudi Arabia shifted its stance and sought to engage with Damascus to counter Tehran’s influence in the region.
Assad hopes that normalisation with wealthy Gulf states can bring economic relief and money for reconstruction, as broader international funding remains elusive without a United Nations-backed political settlement to the conflict. Syria has been devastated by a war that has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry.
While the front lines have mostly quieted, large parts of the country’s north remain outside government control, and no political solution has yet been reached to the conflict. Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday emphasised their “keenness to launch a leading Arab role in efforts to resolve” the Syria crisis.
Saudi Arabia will host the pan-Arab bloc’s next summit on May 19, where Syria is expected to participate after its reinstatement.