ALGIERS (AP) — Syria’s chief diplomat has started a visit to Algeria and Tunisia as part of efforts to revive diplomatic relationships in the Arab world, more than a decade after his country was globally isolated amid President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on mass protests against his rule.
Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad was welcomed on Saturday in the lounge of Algiers airport by his Algerian counterpart Ahmed Attaf.
In remarks broadcast by Algerian public television. Mikdad insisted that “relations between the two brotherly countries exist and will continue to exist … beyond the vicissitudes of the situation.”
“My visit will be an opportunity for discussions between the two countries on the latest developments in the region. We need to strengthen this bilateral relationship," he added.
Algeria is one of the few Arab countries that did not cut off relations with Syria during the civil war that followed the 2011 uprising.
Mikdad notably praised Algeria's help after the devastating Feb. 6 earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Syria and neighboring Turkey.
He was also bearing a message from Assad to his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Algerian official APS news agency reported.
The visit comes after Mikdad's visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that led both countries to announce they were moving toward reopening embassies and resuming flights for the first time in more than a decade.
Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments over Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011. The breakdown in relations culminated in Syria being ousted from the Arab League.
However, in recent years, as Assad consolidated control over most of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement.
A group of regional leaders who met in Saudi Arabia promised Saturday to continue talks to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict, but stopped short of endorsing its return to the Arab League. The meeting included top diplomats from the Arab Gulf countries as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
Mikdad also made a recent trip to Egypt in a step toward normalizing ties.
He is scheduled to head to Tunisia on Monday, where he is to reopen Syria's embassy.
Tunisian President Kais Saied announced earlier this month that he had directed the country’s foreign ministry to appoint a new ambassador to Syria. His move was reciprocated by the Syrian government, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.