Syrian Foreign Minister Al-Mualem delivered a letter from Syrian President Al-Assad to Saudi monarch Abdullah in an unannounced visit to Riyadh. While the content of the letter was not made public, a diplomatic source in Riyadh said that, “The message related to the Arab reconciliation effort launched by the King at the Kuwait Economic Summit last month, specifically reconciliation between Riyadh and Damascus. The letter also made reference to conditions in the region.”
During their meeting the King and Al-Mualem reportedly discussed the situation in the region, particularly in the Palestinian territories and the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. The two also discussed conditions in Iraq, the upcoming Arab Summit in Doha and the situation in Darfur, particularly the expected International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of committing genocide in Darfur. In addition, Al-Mualem briefed the King on the latest in relations between Damascus and Beirut, citing that Lebanese ambassador Michel Khoury had received his credentials from Syria.
Saudi intelligence chief Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz recently visited Syria and passed a message from King Abdullah to Al-Assad. Following Al-Mualem’s visit to Riyadh, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa II, paid a quick visit to Damascus. He met with the Syrian president at the airport and reviewed bilateral relations and ways to improve the Arab situation. Hamad’s visit to Damascus preceded the regular Arab summit scheduled for March in Doha where Arab reconciliation is expected to be high on the agenda.
These developments come on the heels of the Arab reconciliation initiative launched by the King of Saudi Arabia at the Arab economic summit in Kuwait late in January where he hosted a summit on the sidelines of the main event with the leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. That reconciliation effort, however, did not completely turn the page on the public divisions among Arab states regarding the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
[Al Jazeera, SANA (Syrian news agency), UPI news agency]