Despite suspension, Syria FM greets Arab League chief at UN

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The head of the Arab League exchanged a warm handshake Friday at the United Nations with the foreign minister of Syria, which has been suspended from the body since 2011.

The exchange between Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary general of the Arab League, and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem appeared to be brief and impromptu during the annual UN General Assembly.

In a video posted on Twitter by a journalist for Abu Dhabi newspaper The National, Aboul Gheit walks in a hallway at the UN headquarters and sees Muallem, who turns around.

"Good evening. Great. How are you?" Aboul Gheit says, before shaking Muallem's hand and kissing him on both cheeks.

The Arab League chief, who is Egyptian, then exchanges greetings with Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and its ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari.

"Really, it's always a pleasure to see you," Aboul Gheit says to the Syrian officials before giving a friendly tap on the shoulder.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 with the outbreak of unrest ruthlessly crushed by President Bashar al-Assad.

The war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions, but both Arab and Western officials have gradually come to accept that Assad will succeed in maintaining power.