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More than a decade after closing its consulate in Damascus due to the onset of the U.S.-led war on Syria in 2011, Saudi Arabia will reopen its Syrian consulate following Ramadan. Preparations for the reopening will occur during an upcoming visit to Syria by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, who will meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The reopening of the consulate comes after mediation efforts that were led by Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and following the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between former archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Damascus in 2012 as part of its efforts to bring down the Syrian government.
Several extremist Salafist armed groups were funded and armed by Saudi intelligence, including Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nursa Front and ISIS. Saudi Arabia's involvement in the war was led by the former ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan and was part of the larger Operation Timber Sycamore, a covert CIA attempt to overthrow the Syrian government.
Given that Iran was a strong supporter of the Syrian government during the war, the recent reconciliation between Riyadh and Tehran has created an opportunity for rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Tehran and Riyadh announced earlier this month that the two Islamic countries would be reinstating diplomatic ties and would reopen embassies in each capital after a series of China-mediated talks that were held in Beijing.
The Saudi-Iranian talks had been underway for several years and Iraq and Oman also engaged in preliminary talks in 2021 and 2022.
On February 18, Farhan stated that there was a "growing consensus" that Syria needed to be brought back into the fold in the Arab world. Farhan, at the time, cited a need to address humanitarian issues, including refugee repatriation. Adding to the humanitarian issues that need to be dealt with are the now misplaced victims of the massively devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey in February.
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