1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Syria, Saudi Arabia welcome thaw after over decade rift

April 13, 2023

The two countries announced restoration of consulate services and flights as Syria eases ties with Arab neighbors following a rift which lasted nearly 12 years. Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the Arab League summit.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah meets with Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2023.
Syria's top diplomat visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decadeImage: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/REUTERS

Saudi Arabia and Syria have announced the restoration of consulate services and flights between the two countries, during the first visit by a Syrian foreign minister to Saudi Arabia in 12 years.

The visit comes as Syria seeks warmer ties with its Arab neighbors, after over a decade of tense relations due to the region-wide condemnation of President Bashar Assad's crackdown on the 2011 protests-turned-civil-war.

Saudi Arabia was among the Syrian regime's biggest opponents, having supported the opposition against Assad.

What did the two countries say?

The two countries said in a joint statement on Thursday they were keen on achieving a "comprehensive political settlement" to the Syrian crisis.

They stressed the importance of supporting Syrian state institutions "to spread their control on their territories and end the presence of armed militias and foreign interference."

The two countries also agreed to strengthen security and solidify cooperation in fighting drug trafficking and drug dealing.

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Khuraiji (2-R) receiving Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (2-L) upon his arrival at the airport of Jeddah
Syria has taken similar steps with other Arab countries in recent months, as it tries to ease its way back into the Arab LeagueImage: AFP PHOTO/HO/SPA/AFP

The US and European countries have accused Assad's family of leading the billion-dollar illicit trade of captagon. The drug — an alternative to amphetamine and methamphetamine  is said to be produced in Syria to contribute to funding the Syrian government.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are believed to be the biggest destinations of the drug.

The statement came at the conclusion of Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad to Jeddah, at the invitation of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

Warmer ties with Arab countries

Mikdad's visit to Saudi Arabia is all but one of many steps to get closer to other Arab countries. Similar steps have also been taken with Egypt and Jordan, with Mikdad paying both Cairo and Amman visits this year for the first time since the war.

Earlier this week, Syria and Tunisia also announced the restoration of diplomatic ties.

But analysts believe the Jeddah stop could particularly signal Syria's return to the Arab League (AL). The country's membership was suspended in late 2011, as the civil war ignited in the country.

The Saudi capital of Riyadh is due to host the AL's coming summit next month.

Nine Arab countries are set to meet in Saudi Arabia later this week to discuss moves to end Syria's more than 10 years of isolation.

rmt/rc (AP, Reuters)