Saudi Arabia hosted an Arab League summit on Friday in which Syrian President Bashar Assad was welcomed back after a 12-year suspension and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to rally support.
Assad was given a warm welcome, winning a hug from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at a meeting of leaders who had shunned him for years, in a policy shift opposed by the US and other Western powers.
“We hope Syria’s return to the Arab League leads to the end of its crisis,” Mohammed said in his remarks, years after Arab states suspended Syria as the country descended into a civil war that has killed over 350,000 people.
Washington has objected to any steps towards normalisation with Assad, saying there must first be progress towards a political solution to the conflict.
“The Americans are dismayed. We (Gulf states) are people living in this region, we’re trying to solve our problems as much as we can with the tools available to us in our hands,” said a Gulf source close to government circles.
Zelenskyy asked for support to Ukraine’s formula for peace and thanked Riyadh for its role in mediating a prisoner release last year.