CAIRO (Dispatches) -- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Syria could regain its status in the Arab League and fully normalize relations if it is able to play its “traditional role” in supporting Arab regional security.
Speaking at the Wilson Center y, during the foreign secretary’s two-day visit to Washington for the Egypt strategic dialogue with the Biden administration, Shoukry said, “Syria is a very important component of Arab national security”.
Shoukry said the Syrian government needs to demonstrate “a willingness to once again play its traditional role in support of Arab national security” and also show it can deal with the aftermath of the decade-long conflict in the country, including “the humanitarian dimension as well as the refugee problem”.
“When we ascertain that that is the case, I’m sure there will be a receptive re-entry of Syria into the Arab League and the Arab fold,” Shoukry said.
“We hope it can regain its posture and play its traditional role in a way that is supportive of the peace and security of the region.”
Syria was suspended from the 22-member Arab League in November 2011, following the foreign-backed war on the country that has killed an estimated 500,000 people and displaced millions.
In recent months, several Arab countries have begun to engage with the Syrian government, including Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Emirati foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, visited Damascus on Tuesday and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In September, energy ministers from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon convened and agreed to a U.S.-brokered deal that would see the transportation of Egyptian gas through Jordan and Syria into Lebanon for electricity generation, a further sign of bringing Damascus back into the regional mix.
Syria remains under western sanctions, but Assad is in control of most of the country, making him a viable ally in the region despite the previous animosity between himself and Arab leaders.
A major obstacle, however, is the U.S., which passed the Caesar Act, a piece of legislation designed to make it difficult for Syria to trade with the outside world and engage in reconstruction efforts.
Republican Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed Tuesday’s meeting between bin Zayed and Assad.
“It is shameful that a growing number of
countries are open to normalizing relations w/ #Assad,” Risch said on Twitter.
Previously, the United Arab Emirates was one of a series of Arab regimes that backed foreign-sponsored militants operating to topple the Assad government; however, when the Syrian government recaptured much of the country, those Arab countries began to make positive overtures to Damascus.
The Emirati foreign minister on Tuesday stressed his country’s support from efforts to return stability to Syria, saying what happened to the Syrian nation affected all other Arab countries.
He expressed confidence that “Syria, under the leadership of President al-Assad, and the efforts of its people, is able to overcome the challenges imposed by the war, noting that his country is always ready to offer assistance to the Syrian people,” official SANA news agency reported.