Saudi Arabia has put a hold on the restoration of its embassy in Damascus, signalling a setback in the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and the Syrian regime. This development comes at a time when tensions are escalating between Riyadh and Tehran, particularly regarding disputes over natural resources along the eastern border of the submerged region, which is shared between Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait, and Iran. One of the key points of contention is the Durra gas field.
Sources from Damascus have confirmed that the restoration of the Saudi embassy in the Abu Rummaneh area, which commenced in March 2023, has been halted. However, it remains unclear whether this suspension is temporary or permanent.
Adding to the strain, Riyadh has not appointed an ambassador to Damascus despite appointing new ambassadors to other countries worldwide. This action does not go with the timeline proposed by sources close to the Syrian regime for exchanging the opening of embassies and appointing diplomats, which was expected to occur in early June 2023. The situation reflects an overlapping of issues in Saudi-Iranian relations, further complicating the regional dynamics.
According to political activist Talal Abdelhamid, the delay in the exchange of embassy openings and the suspension of the restoration of the Saudi embassy in Damascus point to the failure of Arab normalization with the Syrian regime, which was being led by Riyadh.
According to Abdelhamid, the demands from Arab countries towards the Syrian regime were specific, including assistance in halting drug shipments and progress in the political process. However, the regime’s actions went in a different direction, focusing on receiving aid and funds.
Recent news from the newspaper “Foreign Policy” revealed that the head of the Syrian regime refused to engage with the Syrian Constitutional Committee and participate in the “step-by-step” initiative, confirming Abdel Hamid’s observations.
In March, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported that the Syrian regime had committed to a package of reforms regarding its internal situation and relationship with the Syrian opposition, as well as pledging not to facilitate the export of Captagon to Jordan and Gulf states. In return, Saudi Arabia was expected to restore relations with Syria. However, it appears that the implementation of these promises has not progressed as anticipated, contributing to the current tension between Riyadh and Damascus.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.