Assad of Syria in UAE for second visit to Gulf after earthquake


The trip – al-Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in as many years – comes after a visit to Oman last month.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his first visit to the Gulf states since the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last month.

UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan greeted al-Assad and his wife Asma in the capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the official WAM news agency said, ahead of high-level meetings at the presidential palace.

Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement posted on Twitter that the two were “holding constructive talks to develop relations between our two countries”.

“Our discussions also explored ways to strengthen cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

The trip – al-Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in as many years – comes after a visit to Oman last month. The two trips are his only official engagements in Arab countries since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Abu Dhabi, which normalized relations with the internationally isolated government of al-Assad in 2018, has contributed to relief efforts in the aftermath of the February 6 earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands.

The Syrian presidency said Asma, on her first known official visit abroad with al-Assad since 2011, would meet with Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak, the mother of the Emirati president and who is regarded in the UAE as the “Mother of the Nation”.

The visit marks a continuation of the ongoing thaw of relations between Syria and other Arab countries, more than a decade after the 22-member Arab League suspended Damascus’s membership over al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters and later civilians. during the war.

International sympathy after the earthquake seems to be accelerating the regional rapprochement that has been brewing for years

“The UAE’s approach and efforts towards Syria are part of a deeper vision and broader approach aimed at strengthening Arab and regional stability,” Emirates senior adviser Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

“The UAE’s position is clear regarding the need for Syria to return to” its place in the Arab world and regain its legitimacy in the region, Gargash said on Twitter.

“This was confirmed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed during his meeting today” with al-Assad, the adviser added.

The UAE has pledged more than $100 million in aid to earthquake-hit Syria, by far the largest amount by any single country.

It has also sent a search and rescue team, provided thousands of tons of emergency supplies and provided medical treatment to Syrian earthquake victims at hospitals in the Emirates.

And UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan last month became the first senior Arab official to visit Syria since the earthquake.

Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said Abu Dhabi “is convinced, along with many Arab states, that it is time to reconcile with Assad … and to see Syria return to the Arab League and the Arab group”.

“The UAE is at the forefront of efforts to reconcile with enemies of the past and transform them into the friends of tomorrow,” Abdulla told AFP news agency.

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