Saudi Arabia and Egypt were the latest countries to voice their opposition to the regime’s return to the bloc, joining Qatar.
Reinstating the Arab League membership of Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime would be an “illogical” move and “an award” for its crimes, charge d’affaires of the Syrian embassy in Qatar, Bilal Tourkiya told Doha News.
“It is illogical for the Assad regime to return to the Arab League after 11 years of massacres and violations, in addition to the fact that Assad’s violations, its presence impedes any stability in Syria and the region in general,” said Tourkiya.
The Assad regime is “absolutely illegitimate” to the people of his country, especially after the killing of “nearly half a million” citizens and imprisonment of thousands, he added.
The statement comes amid reported efforts by Algeria to assist in returning the Assad-led Syrian government to the regional bloc after its membership was suspended in 2011. The decision was made over crimes committed against civilians at the height of the Arab Spring.
Algeria’s efforts come ahead of a high-profile Arab League summit that will be hosted in its capital in November, which will bring together leaders from the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt voiced their opposition to the return of Syria’s regime to the bloc, joining similar sentiments shared by Qatar.
“We thank [Qatar for its] support of the Syrian cause and the Syrian people, and we commend the positions of the Arab countries that stand with the demands of the Syrian people, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” said Tourkiya.
The move was also praised by Salem Al Meslet, President of the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces of Syria. He stressed that the position of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt “is not surprising”, urging the world to increase support to the people of Syria.
Al Meslet noted that the overthrow of the Assad regime will be a breakthrough for the Syrian people.
“The overthrow of the Assad regime will put an end to the tragedy affecting the Syrian people who have been suffering for eleven years. It will also eliminate the danger of the Iranian regime and allow the return of Syria’s active role at the Arab and regional levels,” he said.
Iran and Russia have both backed Assad throughout the decades long crisis. This week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was in Damascus where he met with the Syrian president.
Speculations over the return of Syria to the Arab League are likely to remain until the upcoming high-profile summit. Over the weekend, a preparatory meeting took place in Lebanon, where the restoration of the Syrian regime’s membership was on the agenda.
According to Jordanian media outlet Al Mamlaka, Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the bloc has not made a decision on the matter.
Speaking to Doha News, Dr. Imad Harb, Director of Research and Analysis at the Arab Center Washington, DC, said that Riyadh and Cairo’s move is important in terms of the Arab League’s decision.
“Returning Syria to the Arab League is in good part contingent on whether Riyadh can forgive what the Syrian regime did to its own people, how current Saudi-Iranian talks go (Iran is a major supporter of the Syrian regime), and whether the United States wants to rehabilitate Assad,” said Dr. Harb.
The analyst added that “Egypt cannot afford to go against” Saudi Arabia on the matter due to its economic dependence on the Gulf state. Despite regional moves to normalise with the Assad regime, Qatar has continued to refuse to follow suit.
Dr. Harb said that Algeria “cannot risk the failure of an Arab League summit it is hosting” given the three countries’ stance, adding that “no matter how repressive Arab leaders can be, they are not likely to want to sit next to a murderer”.
“Besides, the Syrian regime is not giving Algeria any help: it has allowed Iran to have a dominant role in the country and has refused to offer any concessions regarding at least cosmetic change in the political system,” said Dr. Harb.
Tourkiya also praised Doha’s unwavering stance in the Syrian crisis, highlighting numerous speeches by Qatari officials at international summits.
“We commend the firm stance of the brothers in Qatar, the government and people, who wholly reject normalisation with the Assad regime,” said Tourkiya.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said that at least 1,271 civilians, including 229 children, and 104 victims of torture were killed in Syria in 2021 alone.
The UN Human Rights Office estimates more than 306,000 civilians were killed over 10 years in Syria conflict.