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Syria Today – Saudi Arabia & Tunisia Rapprochement with Syria; Indian Delegation in Damascus

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Saudi Arabia & Tunisia Rapprochement with Syria; Indian Delegation in Damascus

Saudi Arabia and Syria have pledged to seek a political solution to the crises besetting the latter, according to a joint statement released after a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers in Jeddah on Wednesday, Saudi Arab News reported.

Saudi’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad held discussions on Syria’s unity, security, stability and territorial integrity.

The ministers welcomed the start of procedures for resuming consular services and flights between the two countries, according to the statement.

The two sides also agreed on the importance of resolving Syria’s humanitarian challenges and creating a suitable environment for aid to reach all regions of the country.

Among the issues discussed was finding ways to ensure the return of external and internal refugees to their homes.

The ministers also stressed the importance of enhancing Syria’s security and introducing measures to tackle terrorism, drug smuggling and trafficking.

National reconciliation in Syria remained a key outcome of all efforts now being undertaken, the ministers stated.

Mekdad thanked Saudi Arabia for its assistance to resolve the crisis in Syria, and for the aid sent to the country after the recent earthquakes.

As part of its relief efforts in northern Syria and southern Turkiye in February, the Kingdom sent 16 aircraft with more than 85 tons of aid, including 1,000 tents, 13,329 articles of clothing, 3,600 blankets and 3,600 mattresses.

Oman welcomes 

Oman welcomed on Thursday the resumption of consular services and flights between Syria and Saudi Arabia during the visit of Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad to Saudi Arabia.

The state-run SANA News Agency said that Oman supports all efforts exerted to Syria’s return to its Arab surrounding.

Oman also stressed that it supports resuming Syria’s effective role in “the Arab Homeland” and reaching a political solution for the Syrian crisis which “maintains Syria’s territorial integrity, security and stability.”

Oman renewed its support to Syria to establish its control over all parts of the Syrian territory and achieve security and stability in the region, as well as prosperity and welfare for Syrians.

U.S. reservations 

The United States is sticking to its anti-Bashar Al Assad stance in Syria, even as Syria’s top diplomat visited Riyadh. 

An American National Security Council spokesperson told Al Arabiya English, “Our position is clear: We will not normalize relations with the Assad regime, absent real progress towards a political solution to the underlying conflict.”

The American official also said, “We have also made clear that the core architecture of our sanctions remains firmly in place.” He also felt that the Arab governments engaging in Syria should focus on humanitarian relief reaching the affected Syrians.  There seems to be sufficient indication that the United States is not too welcoming of the moves made in reaching out to Syria and to President Assad.

There is a growing sense that the US is losing its pole position in West Asia as an influencer and this is reflected in the fact that Arab governments have decided to take decisions which are necessary for maintaining stability in the region. Keeping out Syria and the Assad government is seen as counterproductive.

The Americans perhaps feel quite helpless that despite Washington’s reservations, Arab governments are charting their own course. This was seen in the Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement mediated by China, and the overtures to Syria in recent weeks.  

Mekdad meets a delegation from Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Foreign and Expatriates Minister Faisal al-Mekdad has met a delegation from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs headed by Sridharan Madhusudhanan, the Joint Secretary at the Ministry, SANA reported.

Minister Mrkdad stressed the deeply-rooted bilateral ties binding the two countries and the importance of upgrading them, along with holding the meeting of the joint committee of economic cooperation as soon as possible.

Mekdad hailed India’s stance during the earthquake, noting to the impacts of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on Syria.

Sridharan affirmed that his visit and the meeting he held with several officials is to see closely all issues related to issues of bilateral cooperation that are being worked on between the Syrian and Indian sides, in addition to exploring other areas and ways of cooperation in a way that serves the common interest of the two friendly countries and peoples.

Damascus expropriates the property of Daraa’s people

A report by North Press indicated that Syrian government forces re-captured Daraa as a result of a 2018 agreement when the opposition armed faction and the government forces reached a ceasefire and a settlement agreement mediated by Russia. Under the deal, the opposition armed factions agreed to hand over their heavy weapons in exchange for some autonomy and amnesty.  

However, after that, the government forces began to strengthen and expand their military positions and violate the terms of the settlement by arresting people who were subject to the settlement, seizing civilian homes, increasing assassinations, and turning the area into a center for drug smuggling.

Five years after the 2018 agreement, chaos still dominates the city and its countryside. Residents still cannot return to their homes because the government’s security services seized them while Russia turns a blind eye.

The report, issued by the Monitoring and Documentation Department, tracks the government’s seizure of homes in the city of Daraa and its countryside, owned by civilians who were displaced during the government forces’ invasion of the region, supported by Russian air forces and pro-Iranian factions on the ground.

It is based on the testimonies of residents whose homes were seized by the government’s security services and turned into military headquarters, in addition to testimonies confirming the seizure of schools and a mosque.

Ideological synergy underpinning Tunisia-Syria relations

The New Arab publish a lengthy report on the similarity between the regimes of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Kais Saied in Tunisia. 

The report said that several Arab countries have re-established diplomatic ties with Syria, and Tunisia is part of this trend. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has visited several Gulf states in the past year, demonstrating that Gulf Cooperation Council states, with the exception of Kuwait and Qatar, are working to support the Syrian regime. 

The recent meeting between Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad and his Egyptian counterpart is another indication of the thawing relationship between Syria and the Arab world. 

Tunisia has recently ordered the foreign ministry to appoint an ambassador to Damascus, and in response, Syria has announced that it will reopen its diplomatic mission in Tunis and appoint an ambassador there. 

Following the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, Tunisia severed diplomatic ties with Damascus, but since 2017, Tunisia has had a limited diplomatic mission in Damascus. Tunisians were divided on this issue between those who supported the Syrian regime and those who maintained a rigid stance against it. 

Following the election of President Kais Saied, who is supportive of the regime in Syria, Tunisia has accelerated the movement towards re-establishing full-fledged diplomatic relations with Damascus. Tunisia has no clear economic or security interests in re-establishing diplomatic ties with Syria, and is doing so for ideological purposes. 

While the UAE and Jordan have clear economic or security interests in re-establishing ties with Damascus, the ideological motivations of the Tunisian government appear to be rooted in a mixture of Arab nationalism, which has deep Ba’athist undertones, and the ideology of the current Tunisian government. [Full report].

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