Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab initiative to return Syrian refugees back to their country


Saudi Arabia seems to be leading an Arab alliance to restore relations with Syrian Government, as there is a plan that involved the Syrian president Bashar al Assad, aiming the return of Syrian refugees who have fled the country, and persuading the West to ease the sanctions imposed on Syria.

The Saudi led initiative would initially involve the repatriation of about 1,000 Syrian refugees from Jordan, and the aspiration that UN agencies monitor those returns and buy into guarantees that returning refugees will be well treated.

The adoption of that plan came at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq last April, prior to the Arab countries’ approval of Syria’s return to the Arab League, and their tendency to normalize relations with Damascus.

This plan was more likely discussed at the Arab summit that took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday, May 19.

The Syrian president who attended the Summit, in his first participation at the Arab League since the Arab countries froze Syria’s membership in 2011 in response to the violent campaign launched by the Damascus against the Syrian uprising that later sparked a devastating war in the country.

Arab diplomats are hoping that the hoped-for success of the refugee return plan will motivate more Syrians to return to their homes, and enable Arab countries to convince the United States and Europe to ease sanctions imposed on Syria, and to allow the country to be rebuilt after it was devastated by the war.

Two informed sources said that the plan was discussed between officials at the “highest levels” of the United Nations, but they also indicated that there are internal differences over the plan due to its dependence on security guarantees from the Syrian government, and the possibility that it will include pushing for the forcible return of some refugees.

While Riyadh has led efforts to return Syria to the Arab League, hoping to persuade Damascus to take the necessary measures to create an environment in which the Syrians who fled feel that it is safe to return to their homes, and to curb the growing drug trade across the borders from Syria.

However, these moves have raised fears among human rights advocates that the refugee repatriation scheme, which Jordan first mooted nearly two years ago – but whose implementation has been delayed due to pressure from Washington and other Western capitals – could become a reality, despite concerns about the safety return to the country.

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