Syria’s return to Arab League not on summit agenda, says spokesman

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The Arab League said on Sunday it was not planning to discuss re-instating Syria’s membership at a summit later this month, more than eight years after suspending it as the country descended into war.

The pan-Arab bloc, which is set to hold its annual summit in Tunisia on March 31, froze Syria’s membership in November 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protestors.

But several of the bloc’s other 21 members have recently renewed ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and some have called for Syria to be re-admitted to the league.

“The issue of Syria’s return to the Arab League has yet to be listed on the agenda and has not been formally proposed,” said the League’s spokesman Mahmoud Afifi.

He noted that the “Syrian crisis” however still tops the agenda, along with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in Yemen and Libya.

Syria’s conflict flared in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that sparked a brutal regime crackdown.

It has since drawn in regional powers, killing 370,000 people and displacing millions.

But the regime, backed by allies Russia and Iran, has since re-conquered much of the territory it had lost to rebels and extremists, and now controls some two-thirds of the country.

Syria’s Kurds, which declared victory over ISIS on Saturday, control much of the oil-rich northeast, which the regime has hinted it may seize back in a military operation.

Earlier this month, Syrian officials attended a meeting of Arab states in neighboring Jordan for the first time since the country’s Arab League membership was suspended.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in December made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011.

The same month, Egypt hosted Syria’s national security chief and top Assad aide Ali Mamluk.

The UAE also re-opened its Damascus embassy in a major sign of a diplomatic thaw.

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Arab states have also slammed US President Donald Trump’s call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic territory the Jewish state seized from Syria in 1967.