BEIRUT, Feb. 26 (AP) — The speaker of Egypt’s parliament led a Middle East delegation to Syria on Sunday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
The trip came after a mini-summit in Baghdad that confirmed the Arab League’s intention to bring Syria back to the region amid a devastating civil war there.
Speaker Hanafy el-Gebaly is the highest-ranking Egyptian official to visit Syria in more than a decade after most Arab countries severed ties with Assad.
In 2011, Syria was expelled from the Arab League after Assad’s government brutally crushed mass protests against his rule – an uprising that quickly turned into a brutal civil war.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced half of the country’s 23 million people.
Palestinian and Lebanese lawmakers accompanied el-Gebaly on a visit following a meeting of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Saturday.
They will be joined by other Arab lawmakers later in the day.
Several Arab countries have moved to rebuild ties with Assad in recent years, a process that has intensified after a massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6 and killed more than 47,000 people, including in Syria and government-controlled areas. More than 1,400 people. There are more than 2,400 in the rebel-held northwest.
The earthquake further exacerbated Syria’s severe economic crisis.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among U.S. allies in the Middle East, have provided earthquake aid to areas controlled by the Syrian government.
The United Arab Emirates has sent more planes laden with aid than any other country, including Syria’s main allies Russia and Iran.
El-Gebaly told reporters after landing in Damascus that an Arab delegation was “visiting brotherly Syria in support of the Syrian people” after the quake.
Citing a joint statement from the Baghdad meeting, he said it was necessary to begin the process of “bringing Syria back to the Arab states”.
“Naturally, Syria will come back one day, God willing, and things will go back to the way they were,” he said. (Associated Press)
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