HomeMiddle EastSaudi Arabia and Syria 'in talks to restore ties'

Saudi Arabia and Syria ‘in talks to restore ties’

Saudi state television reports that the two countries are in talks to resume consular services.

Saudi Arabia and Syria are in talks over the resumption of consular services between the two countries, according to Saudi state television, an indication of a possible restoration of ties between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia, which supported the Syrian opposition in the country’s war, closed its embassy in Damascus and expelled the Syrian ambassador in 2012.

“In the framework of the kingdom’s enthusiasm to facilitate the provision of necessary consular services between the two nations, talks are underway with officials in Syria to resume consular services,” Al-Ekhbariya channel said on Thursday, citing a Foreign Ministry source.

The channel added that the foreign ministry source was commenting on international media reports.

Earlier on Thursday, the Reuters news agency had reported that Saudi Arabia and Syria had agreed to reopen their embassies, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Contacts between Riyadh and Damascus gained momentum after a historic agreement to restore ties between Saudi Arabia and Irana key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, a regional source aligned with Damascus told Reuters.

Restoring ties between Riyadh and Damascus would mark the most significant advance so far in moves by Arab states to normalize ties with al-Assadwhich was rejected by many Western and Arab states after the Syrian civil war began in 2011.

The two governments were “preparing to reopen embassies after Eid al-Fitr,” a Muslim holiday in the second half of April, a second Damascus-aligned regional source said.

The decision was the result of talks in Saudi Arabia with a senior Syrian intelligence official, according to one of the regional sources and a diplomat in the Gulf.

The Saudi government’s communication office, the kingdom’s foreign ministry and the Syrian government have not officially commented on the matter.

Saudi state television later confirmed that talks were continuing with the Syrian Foreign Ministry to resume consular services, citing a Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry official.

The seemingly sudden breakthrough could indicate how the deal between Tehran and Riyadh may influence other crises in the region, where their rivalry has fueled conflict, including the war in Syria.

The United States and several of its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, had backed some of the Syrian rebels. Al-Assad was able to defeat the opposition in most of Syria, thanks in large part to Iran and Russia.

The United States, an ally of Saudi Arabia, has opposed moves by regional countries to normalize ties with al-Assad, citing his government’s brutality during the conflict and the need to see progress toward a political solution.

When asked about the rapprochement, a State Department spokesman said the “US stance on normalization remains unchanged” and that it would not encourage other countries to normalize ties with al-Assad.

The United Arab Emirates, another US strategic partner, has led the way in normalizing contact with al-Assad, recently receiving him in Abu Dhabi with his wife.

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