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Qatar’s amir did not leave Arab League summit during Assad’s speech: Eekad

The latest Arab League summit took place amid major regional shifts that saw Syria return to the pan-Arab body after 12 years.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani did not leave the Arab League summit during the speech of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, according to fact-checking source Eekad.

In a social media thread posted on Sunday, Eekad addressed conflicting reports over the Qatari leader’s departure from the Arab League summit on Friday, which took place in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.

Some social media users and news outlets were quick to report that Sheikh Tamim left the summit because of Assad’s speech, citing Qatar’s refusal to join the wave of normalisation with the Syrian regime.

However, Eekad said that the amir had left the venue a while before Assad’s speech, citing an Amiri Diwan’s statement on his departure, which was released at 16:00 Doha time (13:00 GMT).

Others, mostly Syrian social media users, claimed that the Qatari leader attended the entire summit, with some sharing videos zooming into Doha’s seat at the hall where an official was seated.

Through careful analysis of the video, Eekad found that the Qatari official in the video was Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi. 

While Sheikh Tamim’s group photo with other leaders and diplomats was taken before the summit commenced, some social media users claimed that it was taken when the meeting adjourned in a possible attempt to back rumours over his attendance during the entire event.

The latest Arab League summit took place amid major regional shifts with regard to the Syrian file, most notably Assad’s return to the bloc after his country was suspended in 2011.

The 22-member league decided to freeze Syria’s membership at the time over deadly crackdowns on peaceful pro-democracy protests.

The Syrian dictator, whose war crimes have been exposed by activists, rights groups and survivors of torture, was welcomed with open arms by countries which had once boycotted him, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Meanwhile, Qatar has maintained its unwavering stance against the Syrian regime while repeatedly stressing that the reasons behind the Arab League’s previous decision remain valid.

On Wednesday, days ahead of the summit, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani reiterated his country’s stance vis-a-vis normalising with the Syrian regime.

“We do not want to deviate from the Arab consensus regarding Syria’s return to the Arab League provided each country maintains its own decision on normalising relations with Assad,” the Qatari official said, speaking alongside Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

In September last year, Sheikh Tamim told French outlet Le Point that the reasons that led to the suspension of Syria’s Arab League membership back in 2011 still remain as core issues more than a decade later.

“Why do we accept that a leader massacres his people and expels millions of refugees from his country? As human beings, is this acceptable? What’s more, when we know that these refugees are going to come to us and that this will create problems?” the Qatari leader said at the time, in his first press interview in years.

The Syrian regime plunged the country into more than a decade of war while creating the world’s biggest refugee crisis. In addition to the shelling of civilians, the Assad regime has carried out horrifying methods of torture.

Host of the latest Arab League summit, Saudi Arabia, was the latest to rekindle its ties with Syria despite its previous stance against Assad.

Notably, the developments came after the Saudi Arabia and Iran reconciliation in March. Riyadh had severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after the storming of the Saudi embassy in Iran, following the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr.