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Saudi foreign minister arrives in Syria, meets Assad

The visit is Prince Faisal bin Farhan's first since the start of the civil war and follows the Syrian foreign minister's trip to Saudi Arabia last week.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on March 9, 2023.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan landed in Syria on Tuesday, the first such visit since the start of the civil war in 2011. The trip represents a continuing and significant shift in the kingdom’s policy toward Syria. 

Farhan was received by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two discussed efforts towards finding a "political solution" to the Syria conflict that would "preserve Syria's unity, security, stability, Arab identity, and territorial integrity." They also talked about the "return of Syria to its Arab fold and the resumption of its natural role in the Arab world," according to a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 



Background: The visit, which was reported ahead of time, follows Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad making a surprise trip to Saudi Arabia last week. 

Like other countries in the region, Saudi Arabia severed ties with Syria in 2012 and began supporting rebel groups fighting the Assad government. 

Why it matters: Syria is steadily becoming politically reintegrated into the Arab fold after years of isolation. The country was suspended from the Arab League in 2011. 

Some countries recalibrated their approach after Assad regained control of most of the country in recent years. The United Arab Emirates resumed relations with Syria in 2018. 

Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Syria follows the kingdom resuming relations with Iran in March. Iran is a major backer of Assad. 

Know more: Syria also agreed to resume relations with Tunisia last week. Mekdad flew to Tunis on Monday evening for a three-day visit during which he will meet various Tunisian officials, according to The Associated Press. 

This is a developing story and has been updated.

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