Arab League votes to reinstate Syria despite violent conflict

The Arab League, an organization of Middle Eastern and African countries, voted to re-admit Syria, it said on Sunday, after the country was booted from the group for 11 years after its violent crackdown on civilian protests.

The move by the group to allow Syria back is effective immediately, as the country, led by President Bashar al-Assad, continues to be doused by violence from a long-running civil war.

The Arab League, composed of Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, promotes political, economic and social cooperation between member states. Members voted to kick Syria out of the organization in 2011.

The ouster of Syria at the time was part of a larger, international condemnation of the al-Assad regime for bombing and responding violently to protests, part of a conflict that has spun off into a 12-plus year civil war between the government and opposition forces.

But the move by the Arab League to allow al-Assad’s country back into the organization, a move that was decided at the group’s headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, signals that the region is willing to reopen relations with the once-shunned country.

The country has faced crippling economic sanctions, including U.S.-led sanctions in 2019, which were meant to put pressure on and isolate al-Assad and his allies. But the sanctions have also plunged the country’s economy, having a deepening effect on poverty and hunger being faced by civilians caught in the middle of the war. In 2021, 90 percent of Syrians lived below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, and 60 percent of the population was at risk of going hungry.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Sunday that al-Assad would be eligible to attend the group’s upcoming summit in Saudi Arabia, if invited.

“Syria, from tonight, is a full member of the Arab league, and starting tomorrow they have the right to participate in any meeting,” Gheit said, according to CNN. “When the host nation, in this case Saudi Arabia, sends the invitation, (Assad) can attend if he wishes to.”

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