Saudi king to visit Syria as ties improve


The announcement carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA said King Abdullah would travel to Syria “in the coming days” without giving a date.

The king’s trip confirms the improving ties between Damascus and Riyadh, long rivals for influence in the Arab world whose relations soured after the allegedly Syrian-linked 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hariri, who also held Saudi nationality, was close to the monarchy in the oil-rich Gulf state and had extensive business interests in the kingdom.

Riyadh has likewise been at odds with Damascus over its warm relations with Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran and its support for Lebanon’s Shia militant movement Hezbollah.

The Saudis reopened diplomatic paths with Syria after Damascus’s apparent non-interference in Lebanon’s general election in June, after which Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, was designated as prime minister to try to form a government.

In early July, Riyadh named a new ambassador to Syria after leaving the post vacant for a year and a visit to Damascus by the Saudi monarch has been in the works since that time, according to officials.

But Assad moved first, attending King Abdullah’s September 23 inauguration of an international science university on the Saudi Red Sea coast, honouring a project seen as a keystone of the Saudi ruler’s modernisation efforts.

A Palestinian official said earlier yesterday that Syria had postponed a visit to Damascus by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas due to begin today because of a surprise visit by King Abdullah.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *