Arab League foreign ministers voted to readmit Syria into the organisation, after a suspension that lasted over a decade.


About the Arab League

  • The Arab League is an intergovernmental organisation (IGO), a voluntary association of independent African and Middle East countries whose peoples are mainly Arabic speaking.
  • It was formed in 1945 to promote cooperation and coordination among Arab countries.
  • It is headquartered at Cairo, Egypt.
  • Member States —
    • The Arab League currently has 22 member states including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian Authority.
    • The League also has several observer countries, including Brazil, Eritrea, India, and Venezuela.
  • Goals —
    • To promote economic, cultural, and political cooperation among its member states;
    • To safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to coordinate their efforts in matters of common interest, such as the resolution of regional conflicts and the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East.
  • Criticism —
    • The League makes decisions on a majority basis, but there is no mechanism to compel members to comply with resolutions.
    • It has been criticised for its internal conflicts and collective inaction on important international issues.
    • It has long been criticised for disunity and poor governance.
    • Critics also say it has traditionally been more representative of its various autocratic regimes than of Arab citizens.


Why Syria’s membership was suspended by the Arab League?

  • Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011 after protests against President Bashar Assad turned violent.
    • Anti-government protests had erupted across the country as part of the Arab Spring uprisings.
    • These protests had killed nearly a half million people since March 2011 and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
  • The league had imposed economic and political sanctions on Syria over its failure to stop the violence.


Syria readmitted to Arab League

  • Recently, Arab government representatives voted to return Syria to the Arab League. The decision was taken at a closed meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo.
  • All 13 of the 22 member states that attended the session endorsed the decision. The Arab League generally tries to reach agreements by consensus but sometimes opts for simple majorities.


What is the significance of this decision?

  • Move does not mean normalisation —
      • The reinstatement of Syria does not mean normalisation of relations between Arab countries and Syria.
      • This is a sovereign decision for each country to make.
  • Lack of consensus on the issue —
      • There is still no Arab consensus on normalisation with Damascus.
      • Some Arab states, including Qatar, have been opposed to normalising relations with Assad without a political solution to the conflict.
      • But others, like the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, have quietly re-established contact in recent years.
  • Commitments to a gradual resolution to the conflict — The decision for Syria to return also includes a commitment to ongoing dialogue with Arab governments to gradually reach a political solution to the conflict.