CAIRO (AP) – Arab government officials voted in Cairo on Sunday to return Syria to the Arab League after a 12-year suspension.

The vote in the Egyptian capital came days after a meeting of top regional diplomats in Jordan to discuss a roadmap for Syria’s return to the Arab fold as the conflict continues to de-escalate, and just before Saudi Arabia hosts on May 19 of the forthcoming Arab League Summit.

The decision to return Syria also includes a commitment to ongoing dialogue with the Arab governments to gradually achieve a political solution to the conflict, in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. The Arab League also set up a communications committee in the decision, made up of Saudi Arabia and Syria’s neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, to ​​follow developments.

There is still no Arab consensus on normalization with Damascus. Several governments did not attend the meeting. Among the most notable absentees was Qatar, which continues to support opposition groups against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and continues to resist normalization with Damascus.

Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended 12 years ago when the insurgency turned into a conflict that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million since March 2011.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Samer Shoukry said in a public statement ahead of the meeting that only an Arab-led “political solution without foreign dictates” can end the ongoing conflict, restore Syria’s unity and stability, and allow refugees and internally displaced persons to return.

“The various stages of the Syrian crisis have shown that there is no military solution and that there are neither victors nor losers in this conflict,” he added.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

CAIRO (AP) — Foreign ministers of Arab League member states in Cairo stood ready to vote on Sunday on restoring Syria’s membership of the organization after it was suspended over a decade ago.

The meeting in the Egyptian capital came ahead of the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19, where many have been anticipating a partial or full return of Syria since February following a rapid rapprochement with regional governments.

It also came days after top regional diplomats met in Jordan to discuss a roadmap to bring Syria back into the Arab fold as the conflict continues to de-escalate.

Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended 12 years ago at the start of the insurgency-turned-conflict that has killed nearly half a million people since March 2011 and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

The panel normally attempts to make decisions by consensus, but other decisions could be made by simple majority.

There is still no clear consensus among the Arab countries about Syria’s return to the Arab League. Notably, Qatar, a key supporter of opposition groups, is not on board with normalization and did not attend the Cairo meeting.

The Arab League has not issued a statement on the terms of Syria’s return. But experts have said Saudi Arabia and the region are likely to have prioritized issues related to stalled UN-brokered political talks with opposition groups, illegal drug smuggling and refugees.

As President Bashar Assad regained control of most of the country with the help of key allies Russia and Iran, some of Syria’s neighbors, which were hosting large refugee populations, took steps to restore diplomatic ties with Damascus. Meanwhile, the Gulf monarchies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have resumed relations.

The February 6 earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria was a catalyst for further normalization in the Arab world, as well as a resumption of ties in Beijing for regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, who had backed opposing sides in the conflict .

Although Saudi Arabia and Syria once backed opposition groups to oust Assad, took steps to restore embassies and flights between the two countries, experts say it was a key prelude to Syria’s rejoining the Arab League.

Jordan hosted regional talks last week, attended by envoys from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt and Syria. They agreed on a framework, dubbed the “Jordanian Initiative,” that would slowly bring Damascus back into the Arab fold. Amman’s top diplomat said the meeting was the “beginning of an Arab-led political path” to resolve the crisis.

The conflict in Sudan is also on the agenda as Arab governments try to stabilize a shaky ceasefire in the ongoing fighting that has killed hundreds in recent weeks.

Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Sam Magdy and Noha El Hennawy contributed from Cairo.

Mohamed Wagdy and Kareem Chehayeb, The Associated Press


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