03:46 GMT26 January 2021
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    Three heads of state are leading an effort to reintegrate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into the Arab League, five years after he was exiled from the group, according to Israeli military-intelligence news agency DEBKAfile.

    Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sissi, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are championing the movement, DEBKAfile reported, “whether together or separately.” The leaders “hope to see a historic handshake” and diplomatic reestablishment between Assad and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. 

    On Saturday, the Egyptian parliament moved to implement a full reinstatement of Assad into the Arab League. The parliament also acted to invite Assad to the highly-anticipated Arab League annual summit, slated to take place on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea on March 29, the Times of Israel reports.

    Earlier in February Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for Damascus to be included in the bloc, citing potential gains and progress toward negotiated peace and a settlement of the Syrian civil war. 

    One source of tension that could stand in the way of Syria’s reinstatement is Iran’s backing of Assad, the Times of Israel reported, since Iran and Saudi Arabia are sworn rivals. The conflict in Yemen, for example, features Iranian-backed Houthis squaring off against a coalition led by the Saudis. 

    Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the Arab League’s 22 member states, have poured resources into groups such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a military force that has long sought to topple the Assad administration.

    According to DEBKAfile, US President Barack Obama forecast that Moscow’s involvement in Syria would sink the Russian army into a quagmire. “The Russian leader proved him wrong, and [Putin’s] reputation in the Arab world would soar if he could persuade King Salman to accept Assad’s return to the Arab summit,” the news service reported. 

    US President Donald Trump is not opposed to the arrangement, but his public stance will be determined by Trump’s regional policies, intelligence officials told the Israeli media outlet.

    Sources said Russian military aircraft would escort Assad to and from Amman. Military officers and intelligence operatives from Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria have been traveling around the Middle East to make arrangements for the upcoming summit.


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