Modern Diplomacy
Syria and the Arab League: The Reunification of the Arab Family
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On June 20, 2023, the Valdai Club held an expert discussion, titled “Syria: Halfway Home,” dedicated to the country’s return to the Arab League after twelve years. The moderator of the discussion, Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, noted that the decision taken in May by the Arab League Council to resume Syria’s suspended membership in the organisation looks like a significant diplomatic victory for Damascus, and invited the participants to discuss the primary tasks facing Syrian foreign policy in the new situation as well as the role that Russia can play in a post-conflict settlement.

Bashar al-Jaafari, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Russian Federation, stressed that Syria has never completely left the Arab League and now it is only resuming its activities in the organisation. “Despite all the difficulties that Syria has faced, it has always been at the very centre of Arabism and Arab identity,” he said. Expressing gratitude to Russia for the assistance it provided to the Syrian Arab Republic from the very beginning of the crisis, the ambassador called Russian-Syrian relations an example of partnership and brotherhood and indicated that Syria fully supports Russia in the context of the Special Operation in Ukraine and condemns the aggressive policy of the West.

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria (2014-2019), added that no one in the Arab world believed that Syria had truly abandoned the Arab family. He noted with joy that the issue had finally been resolved and expressed his hope that in the future, the Arab League would not try to ostracize any of its members. Analysing the role of the Arab states in resolving the crisis, the diplomat pointed out that for a long time they had tried to distance themselves from this process, but gradually realized that the situation should not be left to chance. Their priorities now, according to Ramzy, include the return of refugees, the fight against terrorism and the reconstruction of the country.

Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva, Professor at the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University) and Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Planning Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, called the return of Syria to the Arab League an important development, including from the standpoint of geopolitics. In her opinion, what is happening illustrates centripetal tendencies within the Arab community, and within the framework of the civilizational approach adopted in the updated Foreign Policy Concept of Russia. Centripetal tendencies within civilizational communities are a positive factor from the point of view of the prospects for the formation of a global world order. The more consolidated civilizational communities are, the more opportunities they will have to speak with one voice and express the aspirations of their peoples, and the more significant their contribution to the formation of a multipolar system will be, Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva believes.

Igor Matveev, senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, considers what is happening to be the return of historical justice. “The Syrian people have shown resilience,” the expert believes. “It was primarily because of that resilience that we have the current state of affairs.” He considers the stalwart and consistent defence of the country’s interests to be an important element. In the context of the normalisation of Syria's relations with its neighbours, Matveev pointed to the increasing talk of creating a regional platform for the reconstruction of Syria, and this platform should not necessarily be limited to the Arab world. “Russia has many opportunities to make a significant contribution to the reconstruction of Syria together with all other interested parties,” he concluded.