Qatar will not normalize with Assad’s regime

The spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry on Sunday stated that Doha’s position on normalizing ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime “has not changed,” but stressed that they will not become an obstacle before Damascus’ return to the Arab League.

Arab states on Sunday voted to resume Syria’s membership in the Arab League, after suspending it for nearly 12 years following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, amid regional attempts to normalize relations with the war-torn country. The decision came as a result of a general consensus among the member states.

“The State of Qatar always seeks to support achieving Arab consensus and will not be an obstacle to that, but the official position of the State of Qatar on normalization with the Syrian regime is a decision linked primarily to progress in the political solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Syrian people,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Majed bin Mohammad al-Ansari told Qatari state media.

Qatar, which has backed anti-government rebel forces in Syria throughout the 12-year civil war, has repeatedly opposed normalizing with Damascus but voted in favor of its return to the League on Sunday.

The spokesperson noted that Qatar supports all efforts for finding a comprehensive solution to the Syrian conflict, adding that it seeks to work with Arab countries in hopes of achieving peace and prosperity for the Syrian people.

Ansari hoped the League’s decision would encourage the Syrian government to take positive steps towards addressing its people’s issues, and towards improving its relations with neighboring Arab states. 

Arab nations broke off relations with Syria over Damascus’ crackdown on protests that grew into a civil war in 2011. Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia in particular, supported the rebels while Riyadh’s regional rival, Iran, backed Assad.

February’s disastrous earthquake, which rocked both Syria and Turkey killing tens of thousands, was a catalyst for Arab efforts towards normalizing relations with Assad, led by Saudi Arabia.

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