Muscat – Arab leaders welcomed Syrian President Bashar al Assad back into the fold on Friday at the 32nd Arab Summit in Jeddah on Friday that also grappled with conflicts across the Middle East and beyond.
A triumphant Assad called for a ‘new phase’ in regional cooperation in his remarks to the summit, which also featured a surprise appearance by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a sign of host Saudi Arabia’s growing diplomatic clout.
It was the first time Assad had appeared at the Arab League since Syria was suspended in 2011 over the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that led to civil war.
“I hope that it marks the beginning of a new phase of Arab action for solidarity among us, for peace in our region, and development and prosperity instead of war and destruction,” Assad told the gathering.
“We are pleased today by the attendance of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in this summit,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in his remarks, adding that he hoped the return would lead to “stability” in Syria.
The Jeddah Declaration, issued at the 32nd Arab League summit, emphasised the importance of strengthening joint Arab action based on common foundations, values and interests. The declaration highlighted the need for ‘unity, solidarity and cooperation to maintain security and stability, protect sovereignty, and strive for progress in Arab countries and work towards one destiny’.
The declaration addressed several key issues. It reaffirmed the centrality of the Palestinian issue and condemned violations against Palestinians, calling for a comprehensive and just settlement based on the two-state solution. The international community was urged to fulfil its responsibilities in ending the occupation of the city of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
The Arab leaders expressed concern about the crisis in Sudan and emphasised the importance of de-escalation, dialogue and unity to restore security and stability.
The Arab League welcomed the decision to resume the participation of Syrian government delegations in its meetings, supporting stability and the preservation of Syria’s territorial unity. Pan-Arab efforts to assist Syria in overcoming its crisis were also emphasised.
The declaration expressed support for efforts to achieve security, stability and peace in Yemen through a comprehensive political solution based on agreed references.
The leaders also expressed solidarity with Lebanon and called for dialogue among Lebanese parties to elect a president and implement necessary reforms to address the country’s crisis.
The declaration emphasised the importance of investing in resources, addressing challenges and utilising technology to achieve an Arab industrial and agricultural renaissance. Solidarity, interdependence and unity among Arab countries were encouraged to achieve the aspirations of Arab peoples.
(With inputs from agencies)