Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Arab League chief says no deal on restoration of Syria's membership

Ahmed Aboul Al Gheit says consensus must be made for Syria's return

 Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abou Al Gheit speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east Beirut, Lebanon, 11 February 2019. EPA
 Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abou Al Gheit speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east Beirut, Lebanon, 11 February 2019. EPA

The head of the Arab League said on Monday there has been no deal made so far to restore Syria’s membership to the group.

Syria’s participation in the 22-member Arab League was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.

Ahmed Aboul Al Gheit, Arab League Secretary General and former Egyptian Foreign Minister, told reporters during a visit to Beirut that there was no consensus yet on Syria being allowed back.

"I follow this subject very closely and I do not yet observe conclusions that lead to the consensus that we are talking about and that may lead to an (Arab) foreign ministers meeting in which they announce the end of the difference and therefore call for Syria to return to occupy the seat," he said.

Mr Aboul Al Gheit said that Arab League foreign ministers were due to hold two meetings before the summit, which will most likely involve Syria's readmission.

"But the matter is not time, the matter is will. The matter is consensus among the states," he said.

"For Syria to return, there must be consensus,” Mr Aboul Al Gheit stressed.

The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, saying it aimed to normalise ties and curb risks of regional interference in “Arab, Syrian affairs” – an apparent reference to non-Arab Iran and Turkey.

It was seen as a sign of thawing relations between the Syrian government and the Arab world after years of diplomatic isolation.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said the country’s decision came after a “careful reading of developments” and the “birth of a conviction” that the next phase requires Arab involvement to protect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Dr Gargash said on Twitter that an Arab role in Syria had become necessary to combat the growing influence of Turkey and Iran.

The Arab League is due to hold a summit meeting at the end of March in Tunisia.

Updated: February 11, 2019 10:42 PM

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