Questions over the resumption of ties with Damascus have steadily emerged since last year after a number of countries in the region warmed towards Assad.
Qatar has ruled out all chances of joining a regional wave of normalisation with Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime, describing such a move as “a betrayal” to the victims of the crisis, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Tuesday.
“Doha’s position is clear and consistent and is not affected by the interactions taking place, unless there is a development internally in Syria,” Dr. Majed Al Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson told the media outlet during a weekly press briefing.
Dr. Al Ansari noted that “there is no Arab consensus on normalisation with the regime at the present time” and there are no indications of developments in Syria.
The Qatari official added that the Gulf state “supports all initiatives aimed at finding comprehensive peace in Syria that fulfills the aspirations of the Syrian people, and also supports Arab and international efforts in this context.”
Questions over the resumption of ties with Damascus have steadily emerged since last year after a number of countries in the region warmed towards Assad, namely Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
More recently, the tragic 6 February earthquakes offered an opportunity for other leaders to reconnect with the regime, with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi holding his first phone call with Assad in years.
During the same month, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Damascus in the first such high-level trip by an envoy from Cairo since 2011.
Meanwhile, recent reports have pointed to talks between Saudi Arabia and Syria over a potential return of embassies in both countries, which would in effect signal official normalisation of diplomatic relations.
Notably, Egypt and Saudi Arabia had previously joined Qatar in rejecting the return of the Syrian regime to the Arab League ahead of last year’s summit in Algeria, as Algiers rallied to reinstate its membership.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was the only leader from the GCC to attend the regional meeting, which was described as ‘the summit of unification’ by Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
With Saudi Arabia hosting the next summit on 19 May, questions on whether Syria will return to the bloc under the Assad regime are on the rise.
In September last year, Sheikh Tamim told French outlet Le Point that the reasons that led to the suspension of Syria’s Arab League membership back in 2011 still remain as core issues more than a decade later.
“Why do we accept that a leader massacres his people and expels millions of refugees from his country? As human beings, is this acceptable? What’s more, when we know that these refugees are going to come to us and that this will create problems?” Sheikh Tamim said at the time.
Qatar closed its embassy in Syria in 2011 amid Assad’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests. The Gulf state was also the first to establish an embassy for the Syrian opposition in its capital Doha.
Qatar has on multiple occasions renewed its stance in supporting investigations into crimes committed against Syrians by the Assad regime since the revolution of 2011.