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After Arab League vote, US 'skeptical' Syria’s Assad will make concessions

The Syrian government has yet to grant any major concession in exchange for its regional reintegration.
People walk past election campaign billboards depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a candidate for the upcoming presidential vote, in the capital Damascus, on May 25, 2021.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has voiced concern over the Arab League’s welcoming of Syria back into the fold after more than a decade of isolation, but stopped short of condemning the decision made by some of its Arab partners. 

On Sunday, the 22-member Arab League voted in defiance of the United States to re-admit Syria, whose membership was suspended in November 2011 following the government’s violent crackdown on the mass uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. The decision now clears the way for Saudi Arabia to formally extend an invitation for Assad to attend next Sunday’s Arab League summit in Riyadh. 

The vote at an Arab League emergency meeting in Cairo came days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned his Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts against normalizing Assad’s regime, which the US government blames for the deaths of more than 300,000 civilians, the displacement of millions of Syrians and the use of chemical weapons against his own people. 

Backed by Russia and Iran, Assad has won back a majority of the territory his forces lost during the 12-year civil war, aside from pockets in northern Syria controlled by US-supported Kurdish fighters and a mix of rebel groups seeking to topple Assad. 

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