Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will attend an Arab League summit this Friday in Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade.
Earlier this week, Mekdad attended a preparatory meeting for the summit, making him the first Syrian official to attend an Arab League event since Syria was suspended from the bloc in 2011. “This is a new opportunity for us to tell our Arab brothers that we do not look to the past but towards the future,” Mekdad said on Monday.
Syria was suspended following the outbreak of war in Syria, and many of the bloc’s members threw their support behind the failed regime change effort against Assad. But now, the majority of Arab nations have accepted Assad isn’t going anywhere and are normalizing relations with Damascus.
The US is strongly opposed to regional countries upgrading ties with Syria, but that hasn’t slowed the momentum. The effort to bring Syria back into the Arab League was spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, which also reestablished diplomatic relations with Damascus. Saudi King Salman personally invited Assad to attend the Arab League summit.
Hawks in Washington are furious with the developments as they want to keep Syria isolated under sanctions and want to continue the US occupation of eastern Syria. A group of House members introduced legislation to combat normalization that would strengthen sanctions, which already have a devastating impact on Syrian civilians.