News   /   Syria   /   Foreign Policy

Assad attends Arab League summit in 'biggest blow' to US policy

This handout picture shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (4th L) posing among Arab leaders for a group picture, during the Arab Summit in Jeddah on May 19, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was attending the Arab League Summit on Friday for the first time in 12 years in what leading US magazine Newsweek described as a defeat for Washington.

Assad arrived in Jeddah on Thursday to attend the summit upon the invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, first such invitation since Syria was engulfed by foreign-sponsored militancy over 10 years ago.

Syria's 12-year suspension from the Arab League was lifted on May 7 after a vote by Arab government delegates in Cairo. The decision was supported by all 13 of the 22 member states that were present at the session.

The growing normalization has not been welcomed by Washington whose policies in the past decade have been focused on putting an end to the Assad government and isolating Syria.

On Thursday, Newsweek termed Assad's visit to Saudi Arabia as the "biggest blow" that President Joe Biden has received when it comes to his anti-Syria policies.

The publication cited the Syrian Mission to the United Nations urging Washington to end its illegal military presence in Syria and lift sanctions against the country.   

The UN foundational document "affirms respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-use or threat of force in international relations, and rejects the crimes of aggression and occupation as the most serious and grave violation of international law, and, on the other hand, restricts the possibility of imposing sanctions to the Security Council," the mission told Newsweek. 

The United States, maintained the mission, "must abandon its hostile policies towards Syria, start withdrawing its forces from Syrian territory, and stop supporting illegal militias and terrorist entities."

"The economic crisis and the huge inflation that the Americans are suffering from requires that they stop wasting taxpayers' money on establishing illegal military bases in Syria under pretexts that have been proven false such as defending US national security thousands of miles away from Washington."

Syrian diplomats also urged the US to "initiate the immediate lifting of the coercive measures imposed on the Syrians, which constitute collective punishment for them and the biggest obstacle to improving the humanitarian and living conditions, and providing basic services such as electricity, water and health care", the Newsweek said.

Washington, for its part, has expressed staunch opposition to any lifting of sanctions or normalization of relations with Assad.

Newsweek cited a State Department spokesperson as saying that "our sanctions remain in full effect, and they will not be loosened absent a resolution of the underlying conflict..." 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken explicitly rejected the recent developments bringing Assad back into the Arab fold when he told a press conference that "we do not believe that Syria merits readmission to the Arab League."

"It's a point we've made to all of our regional partners, but they have to make their own decisions," Blinken said. 

And yet, he said the Biden administration continues to "have shared goals when it comes to Syria with our partners".

"So, I think the Arab perspective, as articulated through the Arab League, is they believe that they can pursue these objectives through more direct engagement," Blinken stated. "We may have a different perspective when it comes to that, but the objectives that we have I think are the same. So, that's where the focus is."

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, when the country launched a campaign to weed out the most violent militants trickling into the country from around the world. Syria, one of the six founding members of the Arab League in 1945, has denounced the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

Riyadh and Damascus agreed in March to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies after more than a decade.

Assad has already visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman and is expected to visit other Arab states as well in the near future.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku