Qatar has long been one of the bloc’s members that have opposed the Syrian regime’s return while repeatedly condemning its crimes against civilians.
The Arab League reportedly readmitted Syria’s Bashar Al Assad to the bloc on Sunday, 12 years after freezing its membership due to the regime’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests in Damascus, Al Arabiya reported.
Citing its correspondent in Cairo, the Saudi outlet said the bloc agreed to readmit Syria “with immediate effect” though with conditions during a meeting that took place at the league’s headquarters.
The news was also confirmed by Baghdad’s foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Al-Sahhaf.
“The diplomacy of dialogue and the endeavours of Arab integration adopted by Iraq had a real effort in bringing Syria back to the Arab League,” he told Iraq’s state news agency.
The developments come weeks ahead of an upcoming regional summit scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia on 19 May.
The news also came a day after Gamal Roshdy, the spokesman for the Arab League hinted at the move in statements made to Egyptian media.
A senior diplomatic official also told Ahram Online that “the decision shall be made” on Sunday, though he noted that “there might be some reservations”.
Two previous meetings on the matter took place in the last few weeks; one in Jordan and another in Saudi Arabia.
The major regional development displays a shift in stances with regards to the Assad regime, despite all countries isolating Syria since 2011 due to the brutal crackdown on Syrian demonstrators.
At the time, Assad had responded to pro-democracy protests with violence, plunging the country into more than a decade of war while creating the world’s biggest refugee crisis.
Since the start of the war, Assad has forced more than 14 million Syrians to flee their homes, most of which setting up camps in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Jordan and the United Arab Emirates became the first two countries to engage with the regime last year. Earlier this year, analysts said Assad capitalised the deadly 6 February earthquakes to “rehabilitate” its image in the region.
Shortly after, Egypt and Saudi Arabia hopped on the normalisation wave as officials from made visits and increased interactions with Damascus.
In a surprise visit last month, Riyadh’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud travelled to the Syrian capital for the first time in more than a decade to meet Assad.
On the other hand, Qatar and Kuwait have maintained their stance against the Assad regime, though there have been no comments from either countries on Syria’s reported return to the bloc. Qatar believes normalising with the Assad regime would be a betrayal of the Syrian people.
Previous reports suggested demands were placed by countries in the region to allow for the return of Syria, however, an official told the Financial Times (FT) last week that Assad has shown no willingness to compromise at a recent regional meeting.
The official said the regime wanted “total surrender” instead.
“Some are joking that they might even ask for an apology,” the official told FT.
Last month, foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council in addition to Jordan, Egypt and Iraq met in Saudi Arabia to discuss their positions on whether the Assad regime should return to the Arab League.