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West Works on Regulating Arab Normalization with Syria

West Works on Regulating Arab Normalization with Syria

Monday, 4 February, 2019 - 07:15
Destruction caused by the Syrian war. AFP file photo
London - Ibrahim Hamidi

The fifth EU-Arab ministerial meeting set to be held in the Belgian capital on Monday is expected to discuss normalizing of Arab relations with Damascus.

Washington and European states are aiming to agree on a joint stance ahead of the first Arab-European summit scheduled in Cairo on February 24-25.

“Some states stipulated a pause in the process of normalizing relations with Damascus until after the summit,” informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat Sunday, adding that several European capitals would not accept for the event to be the backbone of a decision at the Arab Summit in Tunis in March to normalize relations with the Syrian regime.

The sources said European and donor states are attached to linking their participation in Syria’s reconstruction with an improvement in the political process and the support of the mission of the new UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen.

Normalizing relations between Arabs and Damascus has taken two tracks: First, Moscow has launched efforts to develop bilateral relations between the two sides, while the West has advised Arab countries for a pause.

According to the sources, the US and European “advice” for a pause in the normalization of ties with Syria came in the form of complaints made by Western ambassadors and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his recent visit to the region.

European sanctions against figures close to Damascus and a bill passed by the US Congress, proposing sanctions on anyone engaging in financial support with the Syrian government to help rebuild parts of the country, are further seen as factors freezing the process of normalization.

The sources said European countries have also decided to suspend the process following a decision from the Syrian Foreign Ministry to withdraw the residency permits of western diplomats living in Beirut and visiting Damascus occasionally.

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