Sudan's al-Bashir first Arab leader to visit Syria in 8 years
CAIRO - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab leader to visit Damascus since the civil war began in Syria nearly eight years with brief and unannounced stop that lasted several hours during which he held a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad.
After their meeting at the People’s Palace in Damascus December 16, Assad and Bashir declared in a statement that “the circumstances and crises experienced by many Arab countries necessitate finding new approaches to Arab action based on respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. This in turn will improve Arab-Arab relations and serve the interests of Arab people.”
Assad added that “Syria, despite all the hardship of years of war, still believes in pan-Arabism and remains committed to it and that the reliance of some Arab countries on the West will not bring any benefit to their peoples; therefore, it is best to stick to pan-Arabism and to the causes of the Arab nation.”
Assad thanked Bashir for his visit to Damascus, stressing that “it will constitute a strong impetus for restoring bilateral relations to their former state before the war on Syria.”
Bashir expressed his “hope to see Syria regain its health and its role in the region as soon as possible and for its people to be able to decide the future of their country by themselves and free of any external interference.” He also stressed “his country’s support for Syria and its security” as well as his country’s readiness “to offer whatever it can to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity.”
According to a statement issued by the office Presidency of the Republic of Sudan, Bashir told Assad that he considered “Syria as a targeted state and weakening it amounts to weakening Arab causes.” Bashir also underlined “Sudan’s keenness on Syria’s stability, security and territorial integrity under its legitimate leadership and through peaceful dialogue between all of the components of its people and the legitimate government.”
Arab countries have shunned Assad since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 following widespread protests demanding his stepping down from power.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s activities in its institutions in November 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s violent attacks on protesters demanding democracy. Although many Arab countries have closed their embassies in Damascus or reduced their relations with the Syrian government, there have been numerous calls in the Arab world in recent months for normalising relations with Syria and reinstating its full-fledged membership in the Arab League.