Syrian President meets with Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in Damascus, marking the first visit by a Saudi official to the Syrian capital since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

The meeting ended more than a decade of diplomatic deep-freeze between the two countries, as Saudi Arabia severed ties with Assad’s government in 2012 and had long openly championed his ouster.

However, recent diplomatic activity has been underway as regional relations shift following a decision by Saudi Arabia and Damascus’s ally Iran to resume ties.

Assad has been politically isolated in the region since the conflict began, but he has gradually been warming up to regional capitals as he has clawed back most of the territory lost to rivals, with crucial backing from Russia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries are now warming up to Assad, who is hoping normalization with wealthy Gulf States could bring economic relief and money for reconstruction, as broader international funding remains elusive without a United Nations-backed political settlement to the conflict.