Middle East: Revolutionary Change

Revolutionary events are taking place in the Middle East. Syria returns to the Arab League. The King of Saudi Arabia invites the President of Iran to pay an official visit to Riyadh!

Saudi Arabia is planning to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit that Riyadh is hosting in May, three sources familiar with the plans said, a move that would formally end Syria’s regional isolation, informs Reuters.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will travel to Damascus in coming weeks to hand Assad a formal invitation to attend the summit scheduled for May 19, two of the sources said.

Assad’s attendance at an Arab League summit would mark the most significant development in his rehabilitation within the Arab world since 2011, when Syria was suspended from the organisation. Assad had been boycotted by many Western and Arab states over his brutal crackdown on protests – violence that led to a protracted civil war.

Syria’s return to the 22-member body would be mostly symbolic but it reflects a change in the regional approach towards the Syrian conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the war, which drew in numerous foreign powers, and splintered the country.

Last month sources told Reuters Riyadh and Damascus had reached an agreement to reopen their embassies after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Saudi foreign ministry did not confirm an agreement was reached but said it was in talks with the Syrian foreign ministry to resume consular services.

Arab League heavyweight Egypt has also resumed contacts with Assad. Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on Saturday during the first official visit by a Syrian foreign minister to Cairo in over a decade.

An Egyptian security source told Reuters the visit was aimed at putting in place steps for Syria’s return to the Arab League through Egyptian and Saudi mediation.

Contacts between Saudi and Syrian officials gathered momentum following a landmark agreement in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Assad’s main backer, to re-establish ties.

Moreover, Iranian President Raisi accepted the invitation of the King of Saudi Arabia to visit Riyadh.