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Russia calls for Syria’s membership in Arab League to be restored

December 11, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and President Bashar Al-Assad (R) in Sochi, Russia on 17 May 2018 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]

Russia has called on the Arab League to restore Syria’s membership into the 22 state organisation. The appeal was made by Moscow’s National Centre for Defence Management, with Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev saying that the restoration will help in the political process of settling refugees.

“The restoration of Syria’s position on the global scene, in particular its membership in the League of Arab States is an extremely important issue,” said Mizintsev, according to Russian news agency Tass. “It will serve as a convincing signal for the international community about the return of the country to peaceful life and the promotion of the process of the political settlement of the crisis, as well as push the refugees toward making positive decisions on the return to their homes.”

Syria was expelled from the League in 2011 following its brutal suppression of the uprising against the Bashar Al-Assad regime. Several member states have called for it to be reinstated with Russia also backing the initiative. Last February Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “leaving Damascus out of the Arab League is not helping the peace efforts.” Lavrov added that the League would take a more important and more active role if Syria were a member.

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Mizintsev, whose country saved the Assad regime from the brink of defeat in the civil war, is the latest to make the case for Syria’s restoration in the Cairo based league. He is reported to have asked the Foreign Ministry representatives to place this issue under special control.

Almost 300,000 refugees have returned to Syria from abroad, with a total of more than 1.55 million Syrians repatriated, Mizintsev noted. But it isn’t the case that every Syrian refugee wishing to return has been allowed entry into the country as there are reports of Al-Assad blocking refugees from returning to areas of the country where regime friendly demographic majorities are being artificially created.

Moreover, for many Syrian refugees, their return to the country has been a bitter experience. Refugees remain skeptical over their safety once they return to their homes. Some have described the initiative as a PR stunt to present Al-Assad in a positive light in the eyes of the international community while insisting that they are far from safe back in Syria.