Saudi Arabia is planning to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit Riyadh is hosting in May, Reuters reported Sunday, citing three people familiar with the plan.
The move would be a significant step in the normalization of Syria’s relations with regional countries. Damascus was suspended from the Arab League in 2011, and many of the bloc’s members supported the failed regime change effort against Assad, including Saudi Arabia.
The news comes after Syria’s foreign minister visited Egypt for the first time in over a decade. An Egyptian security source told Reuters that the purpose of the visit was to work toward Syria rejoining the Arab League, which is based in Cairo, through Saud and Egyptian mediation.
Syria and Saudi Arabia have been holding talks on reestablishing ties and are expected soon to resume formal diplomatic relations, which have also been suspended since 2011.
The US is opposed to regional countries normalizing with Syria as it prefers to keep the country isolated and under crippling economic sanctions. Washington also occupies about one-third of Syria’s territory, where most of the country’s oil and wheat resources are located.
Much of the recent engagement between regional countries and Syria came after a devastating earthquake killed thousands in northwest Syria. Following the quake, the State Department said it opposed other countries upgrading ties with Assad even if it was part of an effort to help with earthquake relief.