West News Wire: On Wednesday, the Syrian foreign minister made his first trip to Saudi Arabia since the country’s civil conflict erupted there in 2011.  

According to the Syrian state news agency Sana, Faisal Mekdad and a delegation arrived at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah at the request of his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan.  

On Friday, the Gulf nation will host a gathering of the foreign ministers of the surrounding nations to talk about Damascus rejoining the Arab League.  

Following the government’s ruthless suppression of widespread protests against Bashar al-Assad’s reign, Syria was expelled from the Arab League 12 years ago. Many Arab states demanded the president’s ouster. 

But in recent years, as Assad with significant Russian assistance has defeated his enemies across much of Syria, regional states have taken steps to end the isolation of Damascus, with the United Arab Emirates at the forefront of Arab rapprochement. 

The UAE reopened its Syrian embassy in 2018 and welcomed Assad to Abu Dhabi and Dubai last year, during his first trip to an Arab state since the start of the war. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia and Syria agreed to re-open their embassies after an 11-year freeze in diplomatic relations. 

The move came in the wake of the re-establishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Syria’s closest ally in the region. 

In early April, Mekdad met his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, in what was also the first such official visit in more than a decade. 

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It was widely reported – though not officially confirmed that Maher al-Assad, the Syrian president’s brother and head of the feared Fourth Armoured Division, visited Saudi Arabia in March and received the kingdom’s conditions for normalisation. 

In the wake of the two massive earthquakes in Turkey that killed more than 6,000 people in Syria on 6 February, a Saudi plane carrying aid touched down last month at Aleppo airport with food and medical equipment, the first such flight in 11 years. 

Reviving ties with Saudi Arabia would be a major breakthrough for Assad, who has been on a diplomatic blitz of the region. 

He visited Oman in February for the first time since his country’s civil war erupted. The following month he travelled to the UAE, accompanied by his wife Asma. 


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