Arab foreign ministers agree to readmit Syria to the Arab League

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Arab government representatives in Cairo Sunday voted to return Syria to the Arab League after a 12-year suspension.

The vote in the Egyptian capital came days after regional top diplomats met in Jordan to discuss a roadmap to return Syria to the Arab fold as the conflict continues to de-escalate, and soon before Saudi Arabia hosts the upcoming Arab League Summit on May 19.

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The decision for Syria to return also includes a commitment to ongoing dialogue with Arab governments to gradually reach a political solution to the conflict, in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. The Arab League in the decision also set up a communications committee consisting of Saudi Arabia and Syria’s neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to follow up on developments.

ArabLeague chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that Syrian President Bashar Assad can take part in the upcoming Arab League summit “if he wants to.”

All 13 of the 22 member states that attended the session endorsed the decision. The Arab League generally tries to reach agreements by consensus but sometimes opts for simple majorities.

There is still no Arab consensus on normalization with Damascus. Several governments did not attend the meeting. Among the most notable absentees was Qatar, which continues to back opposition groups against Assad’s government, and continues to resist normalization with Damascus.

Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended 12 years ago early on in the uprising turned-conflict, which has killed nearly a half million people since March 2011 and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Samer Shoukry in a public statement before the meeting said only an Arab-led “political solution without foreign dictates” can end the ongoing conflict that restores Syria’s unity and stability and allow refugees and the internally displaced to return.

“The different stages of the Syrian crisis proved that it has no military solution, and that there is no victor nor defeated in this conflict,” he added.

In addition to Syria, the meeting also touched on the situation in Sudan, where Aboul-Gheit announced that a Saudi-Egyptian committee to communicate with the parties of the conflict in Sudan has been formed.

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