Saudi FM Meets with Syrian President in Damascus

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat who has traveled to Syria as part of efforts to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries met with President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met Assad after landing in Damascus and being welcomed at the airport by Syria’s Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam.

According to a statement released by the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Prince Faisal’s visit falls within the framework of “the Kingdom’s keenness and interest to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that ends all its repercussions and preserves Syria’s unity, security, stability, and its Arab identity, and restores it to its Arab surroundings, in a way that achieves the good of its brotherly people.”

The visit is the first official one by a Saudi foreign minister to Syria in more than a decade. It comes following Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad’s trip to Saudi Arabia last week.

Mekdad arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a significant move toward the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries as the regional diplomacy drive intensifies.

The Saudi and Syrian foreign ministers held talks on efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus and withdrew all diplomats in March 2012.

The two countries agreed last month to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies.

There has been increasing diplomatic engagement between Syria and its Arab neighbors in recent months, with many countries coming forward to normalize their ties with Assad’s government after years of tension.

According to reports, Syria and Saudi Arabia are preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Riyadh is also set to invite Assad to attend the upcoming Arab League summit, which can be a landmark meeting for the resumption of ties between Syria and Arab countries.

Saudi Arabia is set to host the next Arab League summit in May, when Syria’s membership is widely expected to be on the table.

Arab countries had already gathered in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday to discuss the possibility of Syria’s return to the Arab League.

Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended following the eruption of foreign-backed militancy in the country in 2011.

The country’s return to the fold of the Arab world will represent a big blow to the West’s failed policy towards Damascus, regional observers believe.

Diplomatic drive in the West Asian region has gained momentum since Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore ties.

The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on April 6 the official restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia after top diplomats from the two countries held a landmark meeting in the Chinese capital city of Beijing and issued a joint statement.

Observers believe the rapprochement can be influential in enhancing the security and stability in the region.

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