Saudi Arabia Appoints First Ambassador To Syria Since 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced the appointment of its first ambassador to Syria since severing ties with Damascus in 12 years, marking an ongoing thawing in relations since the war-torn country was readmitted to the Arab League over a year ago.

Faisal al-Mujfel's appointment as the kingdom's first ambassador to Syria since 2012 was announced by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. It comes over a year after Syria was readmitted to the 22-member Arab League. It remained suspended from the group for more than a decade over President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2011. Riyadh severed ties with Damascus in 2012.

Syrian state media and authorities did not immediately comment on the development.

The uprising turned-civil war in Syria, now in its 14th year has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. It has long remained largely frozen and so have been efforts to find a viable political solution to end it.

A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in February 2023 that rocked Turkey and northern Syria was a catalyst for most Arab countries to reinstate ties with President Assad.

In March 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after talks in Beijing, marking a major diplomatic breakthrough with an aim to reduce conflict between the two countries.

Iran has been a key political and military ally for the Assad government in Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2015 in an attempt to restore the internationally-recognized government. The conflict has turned in recent years into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week met with United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as they edge closer to a wide-ranging security agreement, which Saudi state media said includes ending Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, delivering aid to the battered territory, and a two-state solution that “meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”