The leader of Syria’s opposition on Sunday urged Arab states not to rebuild relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, voicing frustration amid apparent efforts to bring Damascus back into the regional fold.
After years of poor relations, the United Arab Emirates last month reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital, and fellow Gulf state Bahrain has followed suit.
“We are surprised that our brothers are reaching out and building relations with this regime,” opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in Riyadh, where he lives in exile.
“We hope that our brothers, the leaders of Arab nations, will not abandon the Syrian people,” he added, urging them to reconsider their decisions.
Almost eight years into Syria’s devastating conflict, opponents of Assad’s regime are dismayed by its efforts to secure a comeback both domestically and abroad.
With backing from Russia and Iran, the government has driven insurgents and jihadists out of large parts of Syria, and now controls almost two-thirds of the country.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll mounted and several regional powers bet on the demise of the Assad regime.
Most Gulf states closed their embassies in 2012.
However, in a bid to expand their influence in the war-ravaged country, several Arab states are attempting to restore ties with Assad after his military made decisive gains in the conflict.
Just days before the UAE reopened its embassy, Sudan’s president made the first visit by an Arab leader to Damascus since the war began.
Efforts to bring Assad’s regime back in from the cold are likely to intensify in the run-up to the next Arab League summit to be held in Tunis in March.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse