Despite the war, Syria to revive trade with Saudi Arabia

A blockade and isolation from the Arab world were put in place since the start of Syria’s civil war more than a decade ago. Sugar and petrochemicals from Saudi Arabia will now be able to enter Syria. Rumours of a resumption of diplomatic relations are intensifying, but so far there is no official confirmation. At present, bypassing Western sanctions is the main goal.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The Syrian government has decided to allow imports from Saudi Arabia after trade between the two countries was suspended more than 10 years ago after the two countries found themselves on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war.

For many years, Saudi Arabia was close to anti-Assad rebels and groups during the bloodiest years of the conflict; now Damascus and Riyadh are progressively easing tensions, experts explain, as a further step towards reconciliation between the two Arab countries.

Syrian leaders, starting with the Foreign Ministry, gave the green light to goods from Saudi Arabia, in particular sugar and petrochemicals, the Arabi 21 news outlet reports citing Syrian government media. This includes about 10,000 tonnes of sugar from the Saudi kingdom.

Recently, rumours multiplied about a possible rapprochement between Damascus and Riyadh and the resumption of diplomatic relations, after a decade of war and violence that caused almost half a million deaths and millions of displaced people.

The conflict isolated the Syrian government in the Arab world and only lately does the isolation seem to be ending. However, according to some analysts, the decision to allow Saudi goods into the country is purely commercial, to bypass Western sanctions, without any political strings.

“Despite the ability of Syrian traders to find alternative sources for materials that are allowed to be imported from Saudi Arabia, the aim of the decision is to push Riyadh to reduce restrictions on trucks carrying Syrian goods, which are transported to countries in the Gulf,” said Iyad al-Jaafari, an economic expert.

For Al-Jaafari, the decision “aims to soften” the Saudi position on its restrictions on Syrian imports into the kingdom, which were imposed in response to the huge flow of narcotics, particularly captagon, from Syria.

As for re-establishing diplomatic ties with Syria and the Assad regime, the Saudi government is not ruling out that possibility as Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan himself pointed out to Bloomberg.

Nevertheless, for now Riyadh is keeping to its official opposition to the full restoration of relations, as evinced by its recent decision to block Syria’s attempt to be readmitted to the Arab League.