Saudi Arabia and Syria are in talks over the resumption of consular services, Saudi state media said on Thursday, more than a decade after the Gulf kingdom severed ties with President Bashar al-Asad.
“There is an ongoing discussion between officials in the kingdom and their counterparts in Syria about the resumption of the provision of consular services,” the state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya said, citing the statement. a Saudi Foreign Ministry official.
The report gave no timetable for the move, which would mark Saudi Arabia’s latest step in healing rifts with regional rivals.
Earlier this month, a China-brokered deal was announced to restore diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, seven years after they severed it.
Riyadh has been hinting for weeks about a resumption of relations with Syria. It sent aid to rebel and government-controlled areas of the country after a devastating earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, killing tens of thousands of people. People.
The effort is not directly linked to Assad’s internationally isolated government, but instead, Saudi officials coordinate with the Syrian Red Crescent to provide aid to government-controlled territory. .
Damascus has seen increased Arab involvement since the earthquake, including from governments that have so far opposed normalization after more than a decade of war.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, said in February that a consensus was forming in the Arab world that a new approach to Syria that required negotiations with Damascus would is necessary to address humanitarian crises.
Prince Faisal told the Munich Security Conference: “There is consensus in the Arab world that the status quo is not working and we need to find a different approach. “What that approach is, is still under construction,” he added.
Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Eurasia Group, said Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wants to see “a more stable environment” in the region, which would allowed him to focus on national affairs.
“The program to modernize the national economy requires a more stable environment and so deals will emerge,” Kamel told AFP.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the policy changes on Syria could also help Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, mainly Jordan and Lebanon.
On Sunday, Assad traveled to the United Arab Emirates, where President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told him it was time for Damascus to reintegrate into the wider Arab region, state media reported. of the United Arab Emirates said. The trip – Mr Assad’s second to the oil-rich United Arab Emirates in years – comes after a visit to Oman last month, his only official visit to the Arab countries since at the start of the war in Syria in 2011.