Discussions under way between Saudi Arabia and Syria to resume consular services

Discussions under way between Saudi Arabia and Syria to resume consular services

Saudi Arabia has begun talks with Syria to resume the provision of consular services, Saudi state TV Al Ekhbariya has reported.

“A source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed to Al Ekhbariya that talks with Syria had begun, commenting on what was reported by some international media,” Al Ekhbariya reported.

“The source indicated that within the framework of the kingdom’s keenness to facilitate the provision of necessary consular services for the two peoples, discussions are under way with officials in Syria about resuming the provision of consular services.”

The re-establishment of ties between Riyadh and Damascus would be among the most significant development yet in moves by Arab states to normalise ties with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Mr Al Assad’s government was shunned by many western and Arab states after Syria’s civil war began in 2011.

This month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said increased engagement with Syria might pave the way for its return to the Arab League as ties thaw after more than a decade of isolation.

Prince Faisal said consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed, particularly to address its humanitarian situation, although he said it was “too early to discuss” its return just yet.

“An engagement in order to address these concerns is necessary,” he told reporters in London at the time.

“And that may well lead eventually to Syria returning to the Arab League … but for now, I think it’s too early to discuss.”

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 and many Arab countries pulled their envoys out of Damascus.

But Mr Al Assad has benefited from an outpouring of support from Arab states after the earthquake on February 6, which killed thousands of Syrians.

The UAE has led the way in normalising contacts with him. President Sheikh Mohamed met Mr Al Assad in Abu Dhabi this week, where the two leaders discussed stability in the Middle East.

Last month, a delegation of senior Arab parliamentarians met Mr Al Assad in Damascus, in another sign of thawing ties after more than a decade of isolation over the conflict in Syria.

The heads of the Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Libyan, Egyptian and UAE houses of representatives, and delegates from Oman and Lebanon, travelled to Syria as part of a group from the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union.

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