On Sunday, the Arab League voted to readmit Syria, marking a significant step in Damascus’ efforts to normalize relations with regional countries.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League at the outbreak of war in 2011, and many of the bloc’s members threw their support behind the failed regime change effort against President Bashar al-Assad.
Some members of the Arab League opposed bringing Damascus back into the fold, including Qatar, which did not send its foreign minister to the meeting in Cairo, where the vote was held. Foreign ministers from 13 out of 22 Arab League members attended the meeting.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League’s secretary-general, said Assad could attend the next Arab League summit that will be held in Saudi Arabia later this month. “Syria, starting from this evening, is a full member of the Arab League, and from tomorrow morning they have the right to occupy any seat,” he said.
Aboul Gheit also said restoring Syria’s Arab League membership does not mean all states are normalizing with Damascus. “These are sovereign decisions for each state individually,” he said.
Syria still remains under crippling US sanctions, which are its greatest impediment to the country’s reconstruction. The US opposes regional countries normalizing with Damascus as it prefers to keep the country isolated and wants to continue occupying eastern Syria.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his opposition to normalization with the Assad government in a call with his Jordanian counterpart on May 4. The conversation came after Amman hosted a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, including Syria’s.
“Secretary Blinken made clear that the United States will not normalize relations with the Assad regime and does not support others normalizing until there is authentic, UN-facilitated political progress in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” Blinken said in the call, according to the State Department.
A White House National Security Council official said earlier that the US was “encouraged” by the Amman meeting because the Arab foreign ministers because they released a joint statement calling to resolve the crisis with Syria consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for a solution “through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process.”
The NSC official’s position marked a shift in rhetoric as the US previously dismissed any engagement with the Syrian government. Following the Amman meeting, the Arab ministers also voiced their support for Syria to reclaim all of its territory, including the areas currently occupied by the US.