Assad Receives First Visit by Arab Leader Since Syrian War Began

(Bloomberg) -- Syria’s embattled president scored another victory in his country’s bloody civil war, even if it came from an international pariah.

Bashar al-Assad received Sudanese President Umar Al-Bashir in Damascus on Sunday, a first visit to Syria by an Arab leader since the revolt against his rule began in 2011.

Bashir stressed Sudan’s keenness to preserve Syria’s stability “under its legitimate leadership” and bring it back into the Arab fold, Sudan’s state-run Suna news agency reported. The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership seven years ago.

The Sudanese president faces an arrest warrant because of war-crime charges by the International Criminal Court and makes few foreign trips. Bashir’s relations with Gulf Arab states, however, have significantly improved in recent years following his country’s participation in the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen.

Regional foes have been gradually warming to Damascus as the civil war in the country tipped in Assad’s favor. Bahrain’s foreign minister argued for engagement with Assad’s Syria after his surprise embrace of his counterpart at the United Nations in September. On Sunday, the foreign minister of Turkey, which for years had demanded Assad’s ouster, said “everybody should consider” working with him if he is elected in a democratic vote.

Other Arab states like Oman, Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon have maintained relations with Damascus throughout the civil war.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.