Multiple paths: Reading into the future of Saudi-Syrian relations
A few days before the Arab Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 19, the Kingdom decided to resume the work of its diplomatic mission to Syria after an 11-year estrangement, with the aim of achieving the aspirations of the peoples of the two countries in a way that serves their common interests, strengthens ties between the various countries of the Arab region, and contributes to the establishment of security and stability in the region and the development of joint Arab action.
This decision coincided with a number of recent moves by the Saudi and Syrian sides, most notably the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to Damascus on April 18, in his first visit since the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2011. This visit took place a week after his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, visited Saudi lands, which was also his first visit since the severance of relations.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume relations with Syria at this time took place after the announcement of the Arab foreign ministers at their meeting in the Arab League on May 7 that Syria would return to occupying its seat in the Arab League since membership was suspended in 2011, and after confirming that Syria will attend the next Arab summit. A few days later, for the first time, Mekdad participated in the preparatory meetings for the summit in Jeddah.
In addition, talk about the return of Saudi-Syrian relations escalated days after Riyadh and Tehran concluded an agreement under Chinese auspices on March 10, which stipulated the restoration of Saudi-Iranian relations after a seven-year break, an event that left its implications for the situation in the Arab region, especially in the Arab crisis countries, and its first result was the restoration of Saudi-Syrian relations.
Accordingly, it is expected that the decision to restore Saudi-Syrian relations will contribute to resolving the Syrian crisis, which has entered its twelfth year, in addition to facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their country and prompting the Syrian regime to tighten its security grip on the Syrian borders and on the pro-Iranian militias, in particular regarding the issue of drug smuggling that harms a number of countries neighboring Syria, especially Jordan, which, in the recent meeting of Arab ministers, called on the countries of the region to push the Syrian regime to secure the borders and put an end to drug crimes in order to prevent harm to the security and stability of the countries of the entire region.
The question remains as to what will happen after the Saudi embassies resume work in Syria. To answer this question, Dr. Mohamed Sadiq Ismail, director of the Arab Center for Political Studies, said that this diplomatic decision will result in movement in two paths. The first is a political path that supports Syrian unity due to the necessity of resolving the Syrian crisis in a sound manner through the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as one of the main pillars in resolving this crisis. The Kingdom also has influence with the countries concerned with the Syrian crisis at the regional and international levels, such as Iran, Turkey and Russia, and it is expected that these countries will influence the course of resolving the crisis and activate a new initiative to solve it, which may be announced after the Arab Summit.
Ismail pointed out in a special statement to the Reference that the second track will be economic and supportive of the issue of reconstruction and infrastructure of the Syrian state, and that this will be with the participation of Saudi Arabia, which means the integration and interdependence of the two paths in a way that contributes to strengthening the Syrian interest and preserving Arab national security.