By Mehmet Kıvanç
The Arab world searching its ways
The “spring” is over. While the world is more occupied with topics like economic crisis and migrant flows, the Arab world has also started the quest for formulas to solve its own crises. With Biden declaring, “America is back” and reorienting the US towards China and Russia, it is possible to detect further space of maneuver for Middle Eastern countries to pursue their own initiatives.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are actors that seek a more “active and constructive” role following the end of the “Arab Spring”. The most important theater, where they can test their abilities to be active and constructive, is Syria. Huge amount of planes arrive and depart from Damascus these days, an increasing number of diplomats and members of the intelligence community pay a visit to the Syrian capital, all indicating that Syria will be the center stage of political openings in the coming times. Once it was fashion to “declare war on Syria”. Now, one observes a sweet competition in the Arab world on who will be the first to make peace.
UAE invites al Assad
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus on November 9. It was claimed that during this visit, Zayed invited al Assad to Damascus. The spokesperson of the US Department of State, Ned Price, qualified the visit from the UAE to Syria as “very concerning”.
During Zayed’s visit, the Syrian Ministry of Energy signed an agreement with a UAE company to establish a photovoltaic power plant producing 300 MW electricity.
Sources in Damascus spoke to UWI: Syria may mediate between Iran and the Arab world
Sources in Damascus, which are close to the leadership of the Syrian Baath Party, have spoken to United World International and confirmed the invitation by the UAE’s Foreign Minister. The sources stated “President Assad was invited to visit the Abu Dhabi within the next 2 or 3 months”.
Among the political circles in Syria, there is also much talk that, soon after Zayed’s plane left Damascus, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Esmail Qaani visited the Syrian capital and met with Assad.
The diplomatic and intelligence traffic then continued, with the Iranian Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian calling UAE Foreign Minister Zayed on the phone on November 11, 2 days after the latter’s visit to Damascus.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh commented on the call, saying, “It is normal for Tehran to welcome this visit, and the call was to understand the nature of the situation and correct previous stances.”
Another source with good contacts to diplomatic circles reported to UWI that Syria is closed to any negotiation about its relationship with Iran. The source stated that this position was also communicated to the Arab diplomats and intelligence members sent to Syria, seeking to normalize relations.
Nevertheless, said the source, could Syria play a “balancing and positive role” in the relations of the region with Iran. According to this idea circulation in the Damascene diplomacy, Syria can become a mediator in Arab-Farsi relations.
The source also stated to UWI, “after having successfully survived war and embargoes, the Syrian government will now emphasize more its statehood in international relations. That means, Damascus will lead diplomacy less via informal channels and more through institutional ways.” That is for sure a call to all regional countries to finally recognize officially the Syrian government.
The new trend to normalize relations may become reflected in March 2022 in Algiers, when the Arab League convenes. One of most important topics in the summit’s agenda is Syria’s return to the Arab League. The Algerian Foreign Minister stated concerning the topic: “Algeria stresses that time has come for Syria’s return to the Arab League without any external interference in its domestic affairs”.
Egypt leading the new process
Egypt and Syria had established a joint state named United Arab Republic in 1958, and since then, the position they most converge upon is the struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood. When the Brotherhood was removed from power in Egypt in 2013, Assad congratulated and announced “the end of political Islam”.
After the overthrown Morsi government, the Sisi administration has searched for a mediating role in Syria to end the clashes. This process was further facilitated when Sisi and Assad have taken a common stance on issues of Muslim Brotherhood and the transfer of militants between Syria and Libya. Egyptian companies continued to present themselves on international fairs in Damascus despite the ongoing war.
Finally, as United World International author Islam Farag from Cairo reported in depth, have the Foreign Ministers of both countries, Sameh Shoukry and Faisal al Miqdad met on the sidelines of the 76th UN Convention in New York, after 10 years.
Following this meeting on September 24, Shoukry stated in a TV show that Egypt took no sides in the Syrian conflict, expressing “Egypt’s desire that Syria shall take back its place in the Arab world.”
While al Assad was meeting UAE Foreign Minister Zayed on November 9, an extraordinary meeting of the Arab Intelligence Forum was held in Cairo to discuss events related to Afghanistan.
The Syrian intelligence also took part in this meeting.
Egypt expresses its position on the return of Syria to the Arab League also clearly in its communication with the US. Egyptian Foreign Minister held a speech on past Tuesday in Washington’s Wilson Center. Shoukry stated that “Syria is an important element of the Arab national security”.
In Damascus meanwhile prevails the expectation of a summit between Assad and Sisi ahead of the Arab League summit as a continuation of the Egyptian efforts. It would not be a surprise if al Assad received in the coming days an invitation from Cairo similar to that from the UAE.