Saudi Arabia and UAE's Efforts to Restore Ties Between Europe and Assad Regime

Saudi Arabia and UAE’s Efforts to Restore Ties Between Europe and Assad Regime

In the wake of Bashar al-Assad’s successful reintegration into the Arab League through Gulf-brokered efforts, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now directing their focus towards normalizing diplomatic relations between Damascus and Europe. The two Gulf states have been actively engaging their European allies to restore ties with Assad’s regime and alleviate economic sanctions imposed on Syria.

Lobbying for Diplomatic Reconciliation:

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have initiated lobbying efforts to persuade European nations to reestablish diplomatic relations with Bashar al-Assad’s government and ease the economic sanctions imposed on key figures within the regime. Over the span of several months, these efforts have taken place at various levels, primarily with the goal of obtaining European support for lifting sanctions against crucial regime officials.

Economic Sanctions and Diplomatic Resolution:

Advocates of reestablishing ties argue that achieving a diplomatic resolution to the 12-year-long Syrian conflict is not feasible without lifting the economic sanctions. They assert that only by enabling the revival of Syria’s shattered economy can progress be made towards ending the conflict, which has resulted in immense suffering for the population.

The Complex Issue of Sanctions:

The imposition of severe economic sanctions on the Assad regime by the US and EU was a response to a range of atrocities committed during the course of the Syrian war. However, these actions have seemingly gone unheard by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the rest of the Arab League, who are advocating for a normalization process.

Leveraging Refugee Return:

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are using the potential return of millions of refugees to Syria as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with Europe. They suggest that a prosperous, sanction-free Syria under Assad’s rule could facilitate the repatriation of refugees, benefiting not only Europe but also neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon, where anti-migrant sentiment prevails.

European Response and Political Solution:

While this argument holds sway with some parties, the European Union (EU) is unlikely to normalize relations solely based on this premise. Instead, the EU emphasizes the need for a comprehensive political solution to the ongoing crisis, acknowledging that addressing the root causes of the war is crucial.

Assad’s Controversial Record:

The Syrian war, sparked by Assad’s suppression of peaceful protests in 2011, has had devastating consequences, resulting in massive displacement, the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, and the death of hundreds of thousands of people. A UN survey reveals that a small percentage of Syrian refugees would consider returning with Assad in power, given his role in their displacement.

EU’s Firm Stance:

Prominent EU member states, France and Germany, have categorically rejected the possibility of normalizing relations with Assad’s regime. They argue that restoring ties would not address the fundamental causes of the war and would reward a regime accused of heinous crimes against its own citizens.

International Backlash and Gulf Influence:

Recent developments, such as the United States’ backing of legal actions against the Assad regime and the Netherlands and Canada’s move to initiate legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice, have escalated international backlash against the regime. In contrast, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are striving to rehabilitate Assad’s global image, asserting their own foreign policy interests independent of the US.

The efforts of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to normalize relations between the Assad regime and Europe reflect their broader ambitions to influence global geopolitics. However, the complexity of the Syrian conflict, the severity of the regime’s actions, and the firm stance of the EU indicate that a diplomatic resolution remains distant. As debates continue, the Syrian people continue to bear the heavy burden of a conflict with far-reaching implications.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Previous post Profile: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Next post Sophie Binet and François Ruffin: “We must walk together”