Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani stated that his country still refuses to normalize relations with Syria unless there is a political resolution to the Syrian crisis.
In addition, he declared that Qatar does not want to impose solutions on the Syrian people, emphasizing that the solution must come from the Syrian people themselves, not from anyone else.
In an interview with Qatari TV on Thursday, April 13th, Sheikh Mohammed elaborated on the suspension of Syria's membership in the League of Arab States in 2011.
He revealed: "There were reasons for suspending Syria's membership in the Arab League and boycotting the Syrian regime at that time. These reasons remain valid, at least for us in Qatar. The Syrian people are still displaced, and there are innocent people in prisons, although the war has stopped."
Moreover, Sheikh Mohammed pointed out that Qatar's decision to normalize relations with Syria is a “unilateral decision”, meaning it is not influenced by some Arab countries' inclination to restore relations with Syria, and Qatar will not take any steps without a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
This statement came amidst discussions about the potential restoration of relations between Syria and some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
One day before the interview, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Saudi Arabia upon an invitation from Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to hold talks on bilateral relations between the two countries.
The talks between the two sides focused on the efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves Syria's unity and security, facilitates the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and secures the delivery of humanitarian aid to the affected areas in Syria.
As for the United Arab Emirates, it received Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2022 for the first time since the outbreak of the armed conflict in Syria, eleven years ago.
Syrian-Arab relations are improving following the tragedy of the February 6th earthquake, which prompted countries in the region to send aid to Damascus. After the earthquake, the Syrian president visited both the United Arab Emirates for the second time and Oman, in addition to the Syrian Foreign Minister's first visit to Egypt since severing ties with Syria.
In this context, Sheikh Mohammed mentioned in the Qatari TV interview that Qatar's decision on this matter is independent, meaning it is not influenced by the rapprochement of Gulf and Arab countries with Syria. He also emphasized that each country has the right to make its own decision regarding its relationship with Syria.
In light of these rapid developments and changes, a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries took place this past Friday, April 14th, to discuss Syria's return to the Arab League after suspending its membership in 2012. The meeting took place about a month before the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, where Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan also participated.
According to a diplomatic source, "the decision regarding Syria's return to the Arab League is still being matured,” ... there is a favorable vibe in the present negotiations amongst various active Arab capitals, as reported by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
The source also noted that "the shuttle visits made by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to several Arab capitals, and the diplomatic rapprochement and movement witnessed in the Syrian arena following the earthquake on February 6th, contributed to softening some positions.”
Therefore, Saudi Arabia strives to bring Syria back to the Arab League before the Arab Summit in May, which is set to take place in the Saudi capital Riyadh. However, it appears that Saudi efforts are encountering obstacles and opposition from some Arab countries, including Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, and Yemen, according to Arab officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal.
Algeria attempted to bring Syria back to the Arab League last year when it hosted the summit, but the situation in the region is different today. After the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement with Chinese mediation, many files have seen breakthroughs after years of tension and sharp divisions, such as the start of ceasefire talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi Ansar Allah movement to reach a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the crisis in Yemen after eight years of war.
It is evident that Syria is now closer than ever to returning to the Arab League after its membership was suspended in 2011. Despite opposition from some Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is determined to do everything in its power to pave the way for Damascus' return during a period of calm and reconciliation in the region.
Edited By: Ashelyn Wagner
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