Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan disembarks at Damascus airport, on April 18, 2023. Bin Farhan's is the first visit to Syria's capital by a Saudi official since the start of the country's civil war in 2011. (PHOTO / AFP)
DAMASCUS – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian state media reported, in the most significant step yet towards ending Syria's decade-long regional isolation.
Bin Farhan landed earlier on Tuesday for the first visit of a top Saudi diplomat to Damascus since ties were ruptured after protests in 2011 escalated into a decade-long civil war.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in an online statement that the visit showed the kingdom's desire to find a political solution to Syria's conflict that would preserve the country's "Arab identity, and return it to its Arab surroundings"
Syria's state news agency said bin Farhan met with Assad but did not immediately provide further details.
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The Saudi foreign ministry said in an online statement that the visit showed the kingdom's desire to find a political solution to Syria's conflict that would preserve the country's "Arab identity, and return it to its Arab surroundings".
Assad, with the help of his main allies Iran and Russia, has regained control over much of Syria, and Saudi Arabia has said in recent months that isolating him was not working.
The two sides agreed to resume diplomatic ties, and Reuters reported this month that bin Farhan would travel to Damascus to invite Assad to the Arab League's next summit in Riyadh on May 19, two sources familiar with the plans said.
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The visit comes days after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad's trip to Saudi Arabia, during which an agreement was made to restore consulate services and resume air flights between the two countries.
Last week, diplomats from nine Arab countries met in the Saudi city of Jeddah to discuss Syria's return to the Arab fold, saying a political solution is the only way to end the Syrian crisis.