On September 29, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was filmed having a public warm chat with his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly session. The Saudi-owned al-Arabiya, which released the footage of the meeting, quoted an Arab source as saying that the meeting is a part of the efforts to solve the crisis in Syria.
This was the first time Syrian and Bahraini officials have been seen together since 2011, when Bahrain, along with many other Arab countries, cased its relations with Syria over the unrest there.
A day later, Al Khalifa said during an interview on al-Arabiya that the meeting was not “pre-arranged” and revealed that he met Syrian foreign minister many times over the last few years privately. The Bahraini minster also confirmed that this was a part of the ongoing efforts to end the war in Syria.
When asked about the impact of the meeting, Al Khalifa stressed that the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) only deal with legitimate governments to solve any issue, in a hint to the Damascus government. Al Kahlifa went on to say that the Damascus government should impose control on every inch of Syria and expressed his country’s support for any initiative that would help Syrians return to their country.
The last two months witnessed several signs of improvement in the relations between Syria and GCC states. On September 15, a report of the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper revealed that security officials of the UAE and Syria met in Damascus. Later, Syrian opposition sources accused Saudi and UAE-backed opposition figures of secretly working to help Damascus in its goal to recapture the governorate of Idlib.
Local observers believe that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are interested in restoring their relations with Syria in order to counter the growing influence of Turkey and Iran in the war torn country. Furthermore, these three countries view the Muslim Brotherhood party as a terrorist threat, just like the Damascus government.