Saudi Arabia, Syria discuss restoring ties amid Mideast reshuffling


BEIRUT (AP) – Saudi Arabia is in talks with Syria to reopen its embassy in the war-torn nation for the first time in a decade, state television in the kingdom reported late Thursday, the latest diplomatic realignment in the region.

The announcement on state television comes after Chinese-mediated talks in Beijing saw Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to reopen embassies in each other’s nations after years of tension. Only with the help of Iran and Russia has Syrian President Bashar Assad maintained his power in the Mediterranean nation rocked by the 2011 Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia’s state television broadcast a report late Thursday, citing an unnamed official in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acknowledging the talks between the kingdom and Damascus.

“A source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed to Al-Ekhbariyah that ongoing talks have begun with the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenting on what was spread by some international media,” said an anchor on air. “Discussions are underway between officials in the kingdom and their counterparts in Syria regarding the provision of consular services again.”

Arab media had been reporting that the defect could be contained for the past few days before the Saudi state television announcement. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials from Saudi Arabia and Syria, attributed the talks to reopening the countries’ embassies to Russian intervention.

Syrian state media did not immediately acknowledge the talks. Officials in Saudi Arabia and Syria did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press early Friday.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Oman Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, which the Kremlin called the “first high-level bilateral contact since the establishment of diplomatic relations” between the nations. Muscat established ties with the Soviet Union in 1985.

Oman has long been an intermediary between the West and Iran. In recent months there have been talks in Oman about Yemen’s long-running war, in which Saudi Arabia supports the country’s government-in-exile against the Houthi rebels from Iran who hold its capital, Sanaa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, November 30, 2018. (ludovic Marin/AFP)

The kingdom supported the Syrian opposition against Assad during the Syrian uprising-turned-civil war that began in 2011. However, in recent years, a regional rapprochement is brewing. Last month’s devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey sparked international sympathy and accelerated the process, with Saudi and other Arab countries sending aid to Damascus.

Assad visited Oman in late February. He traveled on Sunday to the United Arab Emirates, another nation that has earlier backed fighters trying to overthrow his government.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has publicly acknowledged that there is a growing consensus among Arab countries that dialogue with Damascus is necessary. Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit in May, where most states hope to reinstate Syria’s membership after it was suspended in 2011, the league’s secretary general said. , Ahmed Aboul Geit.

China and Russia’s interest in the Middle East has long been a concern of US officials, who see the region as critical to global energy prices even as America pumps more crude than ever and is less dependent on Saudi oil as much as it is. once did. Saudi Arabia has grown closer to Russia and Moscow after allies rallied to support OPEC production cuts to boost global oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have also been at a low since President Joe Biden took office calling the kingdom a “pariah” over the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department and the House have not responded. Blank immediately on requests for comments.

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