Egypt, Algeria press for Syria's return to Arab League
Syria will be represented at the next Arab League summit due to take place in Algeria in March, a high-ranking source at the General Secretariat of the League told The New Arab's Arabic-language site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The source revealed that discussions between Algeria and other Arab League members ahead of the summit resulted in a preliminary agreement to invite Syria, in return for compromises from the Syrian regime. According to the same source, concessions were requested from Syria to quell Qatar's objections to Syria's presence.
"The State of Qatar has a clear position in this regard," the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said in earlier statements.
"There are reasons that necessitated the suspension of Syria's membership in the Arab League, and these reasons still exist."
The Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced last week that consultations with the General Secretariat of the Arab League on the agenda of the Arab summit, which would include discussing the return of Syria to its seat in the Arab League.
In a televised interview, Lamamra said that "Algeria is looking forward to Syria's return" to the Arab League," which would "give the Arab side the possibility to resolve the crisis internally (...) and this is a historical responsibility".
Egyptian diplomatic sources also told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Cairo is in contact with Damascus and has made progress towards reintegrating Syria in the League through discussions with other Arab states.
Egypt pledged to work towards seeing Syria return to the Arab League following a meeting between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad at the end of September, on the side of the UN General Assembly in New York. It was the first meeting between an Egyptian and Syrian foreign minister in 10 years.
Egypt and the UAE are leading a regional drive to normalise diplomatic ties between Syria and other Arab states. Syria's return to the league is of personal interest to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi due to his efforts to end the effects of the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements, which rocked both countries in 2011.
In addition, Russia has allegedly tied its assistance to Cairo in a number of sensitive files to the Syrian issue. This includes Moscow's support to Egypt against Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam, which Cairo perceives as a threat to its supply of water from the Nile.
The decision to suspend Syria from the Arab League was taken in November 2011 at an emergency meeting held in Cairo following the Syrian regime's brutal repression of the Syrian revolution. Eighteen countries were in favour, while Syria, Lebanon and Yemen objected and Iraq abstained from the vote.
Some legal experts have since questioned the decision, on the grounds that the exclusion decision was not unanimous and that the founding Charter of the organisation states that member states "respects the existing system of government in the other states of the League (...) and does not undertake any action aimed at changing that system".
The Syrian war, sparked by the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.