21 March 2006: Saudi Billionaire Prince Walid Bin Talal Declares His Support of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
7 Oct 2009: Assad awards Saudi King Abdullah with Order of Omayyad, Syria's highest national medal.
7 Oct 2009: Saudi King Abdullah awarded Assad with the highest order in Saudi Arabia at Ash-Shaeb palace, Damascus …
Jan 2010: Only one day before Al-Assad's visit, Syrian Ambassador to Riyadh Mahdi Dakhlallah, said that the Syrian-Saudi summit would look into "the Iranian dossier and its repercussions for the security of the Gulf and the Arab region". This was the first Syrian admission that the Iranian dossier affects Gulf security.
Al-Assad's advisor Shaaban said that Damascus was trying to narrow the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran. "Saudi Arabia doesn't want to have bad relations with Iran, and the opposite is true," she pointed out.
Syrian sources tried to give the impression that King Abdullah asked Al-Assad to stop Iranian support to the Huthi rebels who have infiltrated into Saudi territory. But official Saudi forces denied the request, saying that Saudi officials "only wanted to hear the Syrian point of view on the matter. We didn't ask the Syrians for anything in this regard."
According to official Syrian sources, the discussion between Al-Assad and Abdullah concerning Yemen was "profound, cordial, and transparent" and involved "deep discussions, expected to produce results".
Al-Assad and Abdullah voiced support to Yemen and its leadership and said that they were concerned for Yemen's peace, security and territorial integrity. A Saudi source declined to confirm news that the Syrians were trying to resolve the crisis in Yemen.
About a month ago, Syria denounced the violation of Saudi territories by Huthi rebels from Yemen. Syrian officials voiced support for the kingdom's right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, a view that conflicts with Iranian policy.
20 Dec 2010:
HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, Chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) was on a short visit to Syria on Sunday 19th December 2010 with an accompanying delegation pursuant to an invitation from HE President Bashar Al Assad.
Upon his arrival at the airport HRH was greeted by Mr. Mansour Azzam, Presidential Affairs Minister and headed to the presidential palace where he was received by HE President Bashar Alassad. The President and the Prince held a private meeting and a luncheon was hosted by the President. The meeting discussions revolved around important issues and the latest developments on the regional, and international fronts, in addition to KHC’s investments in Syria, Prince Alwaleed and his accompanying delegation were bid farewell by the Presidential Affairs Minister.
Prince Alwaleed had visited Syria and met with the President on several previous occasions. In 2009, Prince Alwaleed visited Syria pursuant to an invitation from President Al Assad. Prince Alwaleed was warmly received by the Syrian President who hosted a closed luncheon in honor of the Prince.
In 2006 Prince Alwaleed was awarded the “Umayyah National Medal” by the President of Syria. The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor in recognition of the Prince`s achievements. The Prince`s main investments in Syria through KHC include the Four Seasons Hotel Damascus. President Bashar Al Assad and Prince Alwaleed inaugurated the hotel in 2006. The Damascus Four Seasons Hotel cornerstone was placed in 2001. The Hotel is worth $100M. The 297 guest rooms and suites of the hotel set a new benchmark for quality and spaciousness in Damascus. Prince Alwaleed also has private investments in Syria through the media sector via Rotana Café and Rotana radio.
Prince Alwaleed`s humanitarian contributions through the Foundation that HRH chairs to Syria include the Zayzoun village in Hama which he had pledged to reconstruct in 2002 and inaugurated in May 2005. The reconstruction was to house 504 families and rebuild all damaged utility services such as electricity, telephone, and water. His Highness donated $7 million to reconstruct the village. The reconstruction included the building of streets; an elementary, intermediate, and secondary school in addition to a polyclinic, a hospital and a number of mosques.
11 August 2011: The speech on Sunday by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to the people of Syria marks a turning point in Syrian-Saudi relations and a precedent in Saudi foreign policy.
Abdullah took a firm pro-Syrian line, standing up to critical figures within the kingdom like his nephews Prince Bandar and Saud al-Faisal, claiming that the road to stability in Beirut ran through Damascus. He made sure that all of Syria's demands in Lebanon, and those of its allies, were respected.
Among other things, he instructed Hariri to grant Hezbollah all the key government posts it was seeking for itself and allies in the March 8 alliance, and to issue a cabinet policy statement that pledged to "protect and embrace" the arms of Hezbollah. When the Syrians wanted to remove Hariri, he also did not object, approving the appointment of Najib Mikati as prime minister. The Syrian-Saudi initiative, however, collapsed, and relations went from bad to worse - exploding last week over Syrian domestics.
Pro-regime figures within Syria are furious with what Abdullah had to say, but have been very careful as to not fire back at him, at least not through official media. Unofficial websites and publications, however, have already lashed out against Abdullah, asking why he "suddenly woke up" five months into the Syria crisis?
The king, after all, had been silent since mid-March, even sending an opposite message in July when his country approved a long-term 375 million riyal (US100 million) loan to Damascus.
Qatar's initial reaction to Syrian uprising.
First, whether or not we judge that the Gulf later decided to use sectarianism against the revolution, that was not their first response. Indeed, the first response of the three regional powers who later emerge as the key backers of the Syrian resistance – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – was to use Assad against the revolution.
For example, on 3 April 2011, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani sent a letter to Assad declaring Qatar’s support for Syria amid “attempts at destabilization” (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nownews/qatari_emir_voices_qatars_support_for_syria). In late March, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan likewise called Assad to reaffirm that the UAE stands by Damascus (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/latestnews/uae_reaffirms_support_for_syria). Qatar’s close ally, Erdogan’s AKP regime in Turkey, likewise offered Damascus support, only with the mild proviso that Assad carry out some of the “reform” that he had promised. The Saudi Arabian monarchy initially made similar robust declarations of support to the regime; indeed, even as late as July, just as Qatar was finally suspending relations with Damascus, Saudi Arabia stepped in with a long-term 375 million riyal (US100 million) loan to Damascus (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH11Ak02.html); this rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, we will see, played as much a role as the later antipathy either felt towards Damascus.
Even when the Gulf Cooperation Council did finally urge an end to “bloodshed” in Syria and called for major reforms on August 6, expressing their “sorrow” about the situation, they still stressed their support for “preserving the security, stability, and unity of Syria” (http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/08/06/161072.html).
Notably, this was no different to US policy; responding to questions in Congress regarding the different US reaction to events in Libya, where NATO was then intervening, and Syria, Hillary Clinton responded: “There is a different leader in Syria now [meaning Bashar, as opposed to his father]. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer” (http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/FTN_032711.pdf). Even after months of NATO bombing Libya, and Assad slaughtering protesters in Syria, the US was still urging “dialogue” between regime and opposition in Syria (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/30/syria-plan-reform-bashar-al-assad).
Of course this initial strong support to Damascus can be explained simply as “class trumps sectarianism” when revolution threatens all, before new tactics had to be considered. However, a look at the situation on the eve of the revolts also shows clearly that the allegedly strong “sectarian” motivations for backing Sunni “Islamists” in Syria by these powers was absent; if it thus came as an afterthought later, as a new strategy for deflecting the revolution as many have suggested, then there was nothing necessary about this particular course of counterrevolution being chosen.
Saudi Arabia remained wary of the steps to take in Syria for two reasons. The first reason is classic and based on Saudi Arabia's desire to understand the nature of what exactly is happening there. The second reason stems from Saudi Arabia’s fear of the winds of change that toppled three Arab leaders in several months. However, after waiting for almost five months, Saudi Arabia openly declared its position regarding the Syrian situation in a speech that the late King Abdullah gave during Ramadan in 2011, which coincided with the month of August and with the entry of the Syrian army into Hama city. Many saw this as the beginning of the victory of the military solution over political solution to the internal crisis in Syria.
Nevertheless, Syria and Saudi Arabia clashed many times when King Abdullah and Assad were in power. Damascus sharply criticized the Arab Peace Initiative made by King Abdullah, who was Saudi crown prince at the time, during the Beirut summit in 2000. They considered it a conspiracy against both Palestine and Syria.
The intensity of the clash has, however, become more critical with the entry of the US military into Iraq and the start of Damascus's support for the Iraqi resistance. This is while the Americans, with the hidden support of President George W. Bush for Saudi Arabia, viewed Syria as an upcoming target.
Nevertheless, the most important moment was on Feb. 14, 2005, when former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a massive explosion in Beirut. This seemed to be the start of a wide-ranging war between the two main axes in the region. Although the international investigation has not conclusively proved anything, it has pointed to Syria and its allies being involved in the assassination. Riyadh considered that it was being targeted through the assassination, particularly since everyone is aware of Hariri’s importance for Riyadh. In 2006, Assad sharply criticized the Saudi awareness in a speech to the Arab Lawyers Union, when he used the term “unmanly” to describe the Saudi and Gulf positions toward the Israeli aggression in Lebanon. It was understood that he meant the Saudi king, which turned the issue from being an issue of partisanship and political interests into a personal one.
Prior to the Riyadh summit in 2007, it seemed that the Saudi king conducted a political, and probably personal, review. This was the second such review since Hariri’s assassination and the king invited Assad to the summit. Before that, the Saudi Al-Hayat newspaper had reported that the Saudi king had spoken to the royal diwan (the executive office of the king) of Riyadh’s interference in the investigation into Syrian officials by the International Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Hariri. They noted that his interference was based on “a reconsideration of positions” regarding the international crisis with Syria.
Almost a year later, Assad took part in the Riyadh summit and met with influential figures in the ruling family on the eve of the opening session. Although the meeting did not result in an advancement in the relationship, the two sides told the media that the page had been turned.
However, it did not last for long. The two aims of the two countries remained different. It is known that there are two issues that the two sides cannot agree upon at all, and it does not seem that they will anytime soon. The first is Lebanon and the way that regional affairs are managed in and through it. The second is the relationship with Iran and its regional ramifications. The reason behind the failure in these two issues lie in the deep conflict between 2010 and 2015. By the end of 2011, Saudi Arabia had decided to be a party in the conflict over Syria and sent “jihadists” with a premeditated intention to engage in a war against the regime. It has also tried to contain the opposition by forming a faction — namely Jaysh al-Islam — providing the regime’s enemies with aid, arms, security information and relief materials, as well as supporting every potential political effort to place pressure on the regime and restrict its work.
Although there are rumors that the former director of the Saudi intelligence, Bandar bin Sultan, offered Russia tens of billions to abandon Assad, Riyadh’s support, despite the multilevel animosity, remained much weaker than that provided by Qatar to the opponents of Damascus. Saudi’s damage to Syria in general remained weaker than the damage that was caused by Syria’s two former allies — Qatar and Turkey.
Yet, until this moment, Damascus’ view of the relationship with Riyadh was sensible. The intensity of the remarks made by officials toward it varied. This is judging by the indicators that have emerged in the media, the remarks of the officials and the messages of the mutual friends, which are much fewer now.