Syria has been readmitted to the Arab League after a 12-year absence, marking a major diplomatic victory for President Bashar al-Assad and a sign of shifting regional dynamics.
The decision was announced on Sunday at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, where 13 out of 22 member states voted in favor of restoring Syria’s membership. The vote came ahead of the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19, which is expected to formally welcome Syria back into the organization.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 during a US sponsored regime change doctrine that lead to the civil war, however US badly failed to topple down the government of Bashar ul Assad.
However, as al-Assad regained control over most of the country with the help of allies Russia and Iran, some Arab states have sought to normalise ties with Damascus, hoping to influence the political process and counter Iran’s influence. The normalization process accelerated after a devastating earthquake hit Syria and Turkey in February, prompting humanitarian gestures and diplomatic outreach from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
The Arab League’s decision also reflects a recognition that al-Assad is unlikely to be ousted by force and that a political solution is needed to end the conflict and address its humanitarian, security and political consequences. The decision calls for an ongoing dialogue with Damascus based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which outlines a roadmap for a political transition in Syria.
The decision also establishes a communication committee consisting of Saudi Arabia and Syria’s neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to follow up on developments and coordinate efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Not all Arab states are on board with Syria’s return, however. Qatar, which has supported opposition groups against al-Assad, did not attend the meeting and has resisted normalization with Damascus.
Syria has not yet commented on the Arab League’s decision, but it is likely to welcome it as a sign of its resilience and legitimacy after years of isolation and war.