Syria's Return to the Diplomatic Scene, Step by Step
The reopening of the United Arab Emirates embassy in Damascus is the most visible step so far of efforts to return Syria to the diplomatic arena.
The drive to bring the regime of President Bashar al-Assad back in from the cold started months ago and the trend is likely to intensify in the coming weeks.
Here's a look at the steps already taken and those that are expected in the near future:
What has already happened:
- On September 29, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem meets his Bahraini counterpart during the U.N. General Assembly.
- On December 16, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir meets Assad and becomes the first Arab leader to visit Damascus since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.
- On December 22, Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamluk, a key regime figure, visits Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials.
- On December 27, the UAE reopens its embassy in Damascus, the first Gulf country to do so, during a ceremony attended by diplomats.
All six Gulf states had decided in 2012 to close their embassies, accusing Assad's regime of "massacring its people."
- On December 27, Bahrain announces in a statement that it plans to follow suit and a Syrian airline organizes its first direct flight to Tunis since the war broke out.
What we can expect:
- All eyes are on regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which could announce it is also reopening its embassy. Meanwhile Egypt could upgrade ties that are currently at charge d'affaires level.
- A report in Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper Friday said Jordan was in talks to appoint a new ambassador to Syria.
- On January 19-20, the Arab Economic Summit to be held in Beirut could see more high-level meetings between Syrian officials and their regional counterparts. Syria's attendance is still being negotiated.
- The Beirut summit could act as a test run for the Arab League summit to be held in March 2019 in Tunis.
The regional body has said that, while no consensus had yet been reached, Assad's attendance and Syria's reintegration into the organization were on the table.