The Syrian Ministry of Tourism announced that Rami Martini, the Minister of Tourism, arrived in Saudi Arabia for the first official visit by a Syrian delegation to Saudi Arabia since diplomatic relations were cut almost 10 years ago.
According to the ministry, Martini arrived on Tuesday leading a Ministry of Tourism delegation, which had been invited by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism and the World Tourism Organization.
The ministry said that the delegation would attend the “47th Meeting of the World Tourism Organization Committee for the Middle East, the opening of the Regional Office for the Middle East, and the Tourism Recovery Conference.” These events will take place over two days.
The ministry published photos of the minister being received by the Saudis. Riyadh did not, however, officially announce Mr Martini’s arrival until this report was prepared.
In late 2019, a regime delegation from the Union of Syrian Journalists visited Saudi Arabia. The delegation, led by Union President Moussa Abdel Nour, took part in the Union of Arab Journalists conference.
Nevertheless, Martini is the first Assad government minister to visit Saudi Arabia since relations between the two sides collapsed. From August 2011, Riyadh severed ties with Damascus, ordering the withdrawal of its ambassador.
This development follows media reports earlier this month, which spoke of a Saudi intelligence delegation visiting Damascus to meet with Assad regime security officials.
Syrian Foreign Ministry reaction
Assad’s foreign minister Faisal Meqdad welcomed the move, stating that the presence of the tourism minister in Saudi Arabia was routine.
On Wednesday, Meqdad told the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper that his government “welcomes such opportunities, being the return of a base level of Arab solidarity, and the return of Arab dialogue and communication.”
“It is only natural that the Minister of Tourism would attend a tourism conference held in the Middle East, which is hosted by the Saudi capital Riyadh,” Meqdad said. “We hope that this conference will be a success.”
However, the regime’s foreign minister said that there could be no discussion about a sweeping change of international attitudes towards the Assad regime, adding: “Those forces that waged the war against Syria are still hoping for some sort of change, or concessions.”
The Saudi government did not release an official comment on the minister’s visit.