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Arab League readmits Syria, paving the way for Assad to attend Saudi summit

With Syria's readmittance, Assad is now expected to attend the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19.
Syria's empty seat is pictured during an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on May 7, 2023. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Syria was readmitted to the Arab League on Sunday. The move marks a major milestone for the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad as it seeks to come in from the cold, resume normal relations and attract economic investments. 

The decision to readmit Syria after 12 years was made at an Arab League emergency meeting in Cairo, less than two weeks before a summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19. With the admittance, Assad is now expected to attend the Riyadh summit. 

Further details, including how individual member states voted, were not immediately clear. The Associated Press reported that 13 states attended (out of 21) and that the vote was unanimous. Details remained unclear at the time of this writing whether any conditions were set for Assad on the return of refugees, drug smuggling and a political process. Washington has been pushing Arab partners to extract tangibles from Assad before readmitting him to the Arab League

Background: Syria's membership was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 following the government’s violent crackdown on protests that led to the ongoing civil war. Many Arab League member states suspended relations with Syria at the time and supported Syrian rebel groups.

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