The Arab League has lifted Syria’s suspension, ending a 10-year isolation for President Bashar al-Assad. The suspension was imposed in November 2011 over the government’s crackdown on peaceful protests, which later escalated into a conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions. Although the country’s front lines have mostly quietened, large parts of the north remain outside government control. There is no political solution to the 12-year-old conflict yet. Government delegations from the Syrian Arab Republic will resume their participation in Arab League meetings from Sunday.
The Arab League’s foreign ministers have agreed to form a ministerial committee to continue direct dialogue with the Syrian government in order to reach a comprehensive solution. Several Arab countries cut ties with Syria early in the conflict, betting on Assad’s demise, while some provided support to the Syrian opposition. The last Arab League summit Assad attended was in 2010, while the opposition attended the pan-Arab group’s summit in Doha in 2013.
Syria’s return to the body is “the beginning… not the end of the issue”, said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the 22-member Arab League. He added that it was up to individual countries to decide whether to resume ties with Damascus. The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition alliance, said Sunday’s decision meant “abandoning” Syrians and leaving them “without official Arab support”. “It is unacceptable to allow (Assad) to avoid punishment for the war crimes he has committed against Syrians,” said the coalition.