The Arab League announced the immediate reinstatement of Syria as a member on Sunday, after a meeting of 13 Arab foreign ministers led by Egypt unanimously approving the decision. In a press conference after the meeting, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be welcome to participate in the league’s upcoming summit on May 19 “if he wishes to.”
Syria’s return to the Arab League comes 12 years after its suspension due to the Assad regime’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters during the Syrian uprising that began in 2011. The diplomatic breakthrough is an important milestone for Assad, because it affirms his legitimacy, both domestically and regionally. It also confirms the acceptance across the region that he has won Syria’s civil war, despite comments by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri at Sunday’s meeting that “there are no winners or losers” in the conflict.
Shukri’s comments can be seen as an effort to appease Arab states that still oppose the Assad regime, mainly Qatar. Doha did not send a representative to the foreign minister’s meeting Sunday and shortly afterward announced that its position “on normalization with the Syrian regime has not changed.” Gheit emphasized that Syria’s return to the Arab League will not have a binding impact on bilateral relations between Syria and individual member states, which are based on sovereign decisions made in each country’s capital.