Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad cemented his return to the Arab fold this week, as Saudi Arabia – a key ally of rebel groups in Syria’s civil war – said its diplomats would return to the country.
The restoration of diplomatic ties on Tuesday, later confirmed by Damascus, follows more than a decade after the Saudis withdrew their representatives, and comes two days after Syria’s membership of the Arab League was resumed.
The Saudi statement said the decision was intended to “develop joint Arab action”, reflecting its historic position as one of the Arab world’s leading nations.
Saudi Arabia will host the pan-Arab bloc’s next summit on 19 May.
Assad’s decade in the political wilderness has come to an end in recent weeks following the decision by Saudi Arabia and Iran – Assad’s primary ally in the region – to resume ties themselves.
Three weeks ago, Assad met the Saudi foreign minister in Damascus in the first such visit since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.
Assad hopes normalisation with wealthy Gulf states might bring economic relief for reconstruction of Syria, in the absence of broader international funding owing to the lack of an UN-backed settlement to the conflict.
Assad is widely considered to have perpetrated numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity during the decade-long civil war, including chemical attacks against Syrian civilians.