Syria and Saudi Arabia have reached a breakthrough agreement to reopen their embassies, Reuters reported on March 23, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter.
An unnamed regional source aligned with Damascus told the news agency that talks between Damascus and Riyadh had gained momentum after the recent China-brokered agreement that restored Saudi-Iranian relations.
Riyadh cut all ties with Damascus when the war first broke out in Syria more than a decade ago. In the first years of the war, the kingdom played a key role in financing and arming rebels. However, it later adopted a more pragmatic stance on Syria despite facing pressure from the United States.
A high-ranking Syrian intelligence official “stayed for days” in Riyadh and an agreement was struck to reopen embassies “very soon,” an unnamed Gulf diplomatic source told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a second unnamed source from Damascus allies said that Syria and Saudi Arabia were “preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr”, a Muslim holiday in the second half of April.
One of the regional sources identified the Syrian official who visited Riyadh as Hussam Louqa, who heads the General Intelligence Directorate. According to the source, the talks included security on Syria’s border with Jordan and combating drug trafficking.
The Gulf diplomat said that the Syrian-Saudi agreement could pave the way for a vote to lift Syria’s 2011 suspension from the Arab League during the next summit, which will be held in the kingdom next April.
After the announcement of the Saudi-Iranian agreement early on in March, the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud stressed that dialogue with Damascus is needed.
“We must find a way to overcome the challenges posed by the status quo with regard to the refugees and the humanitarian situation inside Syria. Therefore, we must find a new approach, and this will inevitably require dialogue with the government in Damascus. We and the Arab countries are working on appropriate formulas in consultation with our partners in the international community,”the minister told Al-Arabiya TV.
From his side, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Saudi Arabia’s agreement with Iran during his recent visit to Russia, and said that the kingdom was longer intervening in the war in Syria.
Syria is no longer a place of Iranian-Saudi conflict, as it was at some stages by some parties at that time. Saudi policy took a different turn towards Syria years ago and it is no longer… I mean, it was not within the framework or was not in the process of interfering in internal affairs or supporting any factions in Syria,”the president said during an interview with RT.
The Syrian-Saudi agreement is a major blow to both the U.S. and the European Union, who have been calling for maximum pressure on Damascus.
Saudi Arabia could help Syria with some of its current economic and humanitarian problems, while at the same time limit Iran’s influence in the war-torn country.
Source: South Front