Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voiced hope Friday for a new era of Arab cooperation as his country was welcomed back to the Arab League after more than a decade of suspension.
“I hope that it marks the beginning of a new phase of Arab action for solidarity among us, for peace in our region, development and prosperity instead of war and destruction,” Assad said in a speech to his first Arab summit in 13 years.
Assad had been cold-shouldered by most Arab states since his government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in 2011 sparked civil war.
But a flurry of diplomatic activity has been underway in recent weeks after a decision by Saudi Arabia and Assad ally Iran to resume ties shifted the political landscape.
“We are holding this summit in a turbulent world,” Assad said.
But “hope grows” in the light of the rapprochements between Arab states which “culminate in this summit,” Assad said.
Assad thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “for the great role he played and the intense efforts he exerted to promote reconciliation in our region”.
Assad said Syria would always belong to the Arab world but called for non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab states.
“It is important to leave internal affairs to the country’s people as they are best able to manage their own affairs,” he said.
Saudi Arabia severed ties with Assad’s government in 2012 and had openly championed Assad’s ouster, backing Syrian rebels in earlier stages of the war.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and Syria said their embassies will resume work more than a decade after they were closed.
Last month, Assad met in Damascus with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the first such visit since the war broke out in 2011.
Source: Ahram Online