Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has received a delegation from the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is in Damascus to discuss restoration of Syria’s membership in the Arab League after more than a decade of suspension from the 22-member bloc.
The meeting took place after the heads of the Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Libyan, Egyptian and Emirati parliaments as well as representatives from Oman and Lebanon arrived at Damascus International Airport on Sunday.
“The delegation’s visit to Syria today means a lot to the Syrian people as it indicates the support to the Syrians … who are exposed as a result of the terrorist war and the repercussions of the earthquake,” Assad was quoted by Syria’s official SANA news agency as saying.
“The visit also affirms that there are effective Arab institutions capable of taking the initiative in various circumstances and moving in the interest of the Arab peoples,” he said, appreciating the Arab countries’ rapid response to help the Syrian people in the devastating earthquake.
Stressing that the strength of popular institutions comes from the fact that they represent the different spectrums and forms of society, Assad said, “This diversity is an opportunity for dialogue and searching for common points of strength to be the basis for joint Arab action.”
Members of the delegation, for their part, expressed their readiness to provide all possible support for the Syrian people to overcome the seismic ordeal, saying, “Syria has never stopped serving the causes of the Arab peoples, considering that the Syrian people are able to overcome the effects of the earthquake just as they were able to confront the war and the blockade imposed on the country.”
The disastrous earthquake hit Turkey and neighboring Syria earlier this month, killing more than 50,000 in both countries, according to the latest figures which are updated daily.
Syria, already shattered by more than a decade of war and draconian US sanctions, has reported more than 5,900 deaths since the high-magnitude tremor rattled the northern part of the country.
‘We cannot do without Syria’
Muhammad al-Halbousi, the president of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the delegation came to Syria on behalf of all members of the Union to voice “support and solidarity” with the Syrian people.
Halbousi praised Syria for having “opened its doors to all Arabs at various stages” and underscored the “importance of working at all levels for the return of Damascus to exercise its active role within its Arab surroundings.”
“We cannot do without Syria and Syria cannot do without its Arab surroundings, which we hope it can return to,” the president of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union said.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, citing an alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria has denounced the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”
Syria was one of the six founding members of the Arab League in 1945. In recent months, an increasing number of countries and political parties have called for the reversal of its suspension from the Arab League.