Russia urges North Africa to bring Syria back to Arab League

Russia urges North Africa to bring Syria back to Arab League
Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui speaks to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, left, during his visit, in Tunis, Tunisia, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister is pressing North African countries to support Syria’s return to the Arab League, now that President Bashar Assad is largely seen as having won the Syrian civil war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria this week and at each stop called for Syria’s reintegration into the “Arab family.” Lavrov urged it to happen before an Arab League summit in Tunis in March.

Syria’s membership was suspended in 2011 over Assad’s military crackdown on protesters calling for reforms. Some Arab countries want Syria’s membership restored, after backing from Russia and Iran helped Assad gain the upper hand in the war.

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Khemais Jhinaoui said Saturday that “Syria’s natural place is in the Arab fold” but remained vague on Tunisia’s official position.