UAE Normalising Relations With Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has met the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Damascus on Tuesday, the Syrian presidency said. During the meeting, they have discussed “exploring new horizons” to bolster bilateral ties and commercial partnerships, according to the presidency statement.

“Sheikh Abdullah stressed the UAE’s support for efforts for stability in Syria…expressing his confidence that Syria, under the leadership of President Al-Assad, and the efforts of its people are able to overcome the challenges caused by the war,” the statement read. Al-Assad praised the UAE for its “correct and objective positions” towards Syria.

Bin Zayed is the first Emirati official to visit Damascus since the 2011 uprising that degenerated into the ongoing Syrian war that has killed nearly half a million people and forced 5.6 million Syrians to become refugees.

Back then, the UAE was one of the regional powers that backed opposition fighters during the war, but with the Syrian government recapturing much of the country, it has changed its position towards Syria. Other countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, have also made overtures towards Al-Assad’s government.

New ties between Arab countries and Syria

Last month, the Emirati economy ministry said it had agreed with its Syrian counterpart to enhance trade and economic cooperation after the economy ministers of both countries met on the sidelines at Dubai Expo 2020.

Since late 2018, ties between the two countries have slowly rekindled. The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus and called for Syria to be readmitted into the Arab League.

Last month, Al-Assad had a phone call with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The conversation was preceded by the reopening of a main border crossing between the two countries in September. The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, also met with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Miqdad, in September 2021, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

As a reaction to the latest meeting between Syria and UAE, Qatar’s top diplomat on Friday has voiced his hope for a halt to normalisation with the Syrian President. “We hope that countries will be discouraged from taking further steps with the Syrian regime,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a joint news conference in Washington with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, AFP reports.

The United States has expressed its concern over the meeting. “We are concerned about the visit and the message that may be understood from the visit,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. The spokesman indicated that Washington has clearly informed its close partners in the region, including the Emiratis, of its position, the Middle East In explains.

The US “will not normalize or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime, and we do not support normalization or upgrading of other countries’ relations with it due to the atrocities this regime has committed against the Syrian people”, Prince announced.

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