Syrian Foreign Minister Discusses Arab Relations and the Golan Heights in Exclusive Interview

Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad discusses the Syrian regime’s current policy in the region in an interview with Al-Ain News. It came on the sidelines of a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers that recently took place in Cairo and is the 161st session of this confab. Much of this comes amid the ongoing war in Gaza, thus placing a spotlight on other issues that otherwise might be less intense.

According to the report by Al-Ain media, Mekdad discussed several issues, such as the importance of Syria’s ties to the Gulf. He also discussed “some of the developments that concern Syria, including the recent Israeli strikes and other regional developments that were not devoid of renewing the firm position on the Palestinian issue.”

Damascus wants to improve ties with the UAE, for instance. In such a development, Syria recently returned to the Arab League last year. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have done outreach to Syria to try to reconcile and bring it back into the Arab fold after a decade of distance due to the civil war in Syria.

Expanding regional ties

The Syrian diplomat discussed strengthening ties between Arab countries and cooperation. There were few specifics in this discussion. “He said that he met with the UAE Minister of State, Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, and the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Sameh Shukri, Lebanon, Abdullah Bouhabib, and Tunisia, Nabil Ammar, in a meeting to discuss bilateral relations, ways to strengthen them, and developments in the situation on the regional and international arenas,” the report noted.

Syria’s regime opposes Western sanctions on Damascus. “Regarding the Israeli strikes in Lebanon and Syria, Al-Mekdad called for the necessity of ‘not expanding the war’ in Gaza, noting that this demand constitutes a ‘global desire.”

Israeli soldiers take part in a military drill near the border between Israel and Syria at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, November 2, 2023. (credit: Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters)

The Syrian diplomat also discussed southern Lebanon and the Golan, describing them as “occupied Arab land.” This apparently refers not only to the Golan by the Mount Dov area on the Lebanon-Israel border but also calls for a Palestinian state.

Support for Palestinians

“The problems with the United States of America and some European countries are due to his country’s position of standing aside with the Palestinian people.” The Syrian diplomat thanked the Arab countries for their support at the recent meeting and their support on the Golan issue.

In general, the interview was soft on specifics but shows how the Syrian regime is continuing to work to integrate itself into the region. This has some ramifications because as Israel fights in Gaza, the agenda of Syria and its allies in Tehran is to isolate Israel. They want Gaza to be mired in disaster so that countries will forget about the Syrian civil war, for instance.