Assad of Syria visits the United Arab Emirates, first trip to an Arab state since the start of the war

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the government committee overseeing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on May 4, 2020.

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  • The UAE once backed Assad’s opponents in the Syria war
  • Washington has expressed concern over past UAE moves towards Assad
  • Assad only visited Iran and Russia during the war
  • UAE says it wants to strengthen cooperation with Syria

DUBAI, March 18 (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Friday in his first visit to an Arab state since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, underscoring warming ties with a US-allied country that once backed rebels who sought its ouster.

Assad met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who “stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security and that the UAE wishes to strengthen cooperation with it”, he said. the Emirati state news agency (WAM) reported.

Assad’s only trips outside of Syria during the war were to Iran and Russia, close allies whose military support helped him turn the tide against opponents who had been backed by governments, including states. of the Gulf allied to the United States.

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Video posted by WAM showed Assad smiling as he stood alongside Sheikh Mohammed in front of Syrian and Emirati flags, as well as gesturing and smiling during the talks.

The United States has opposed efforts to normalize ties with Assad or rehabilitate him until progress is made toward a political solution to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since the end of Israel. an uprising against Assad.

Washington expressed concern in November when the UAE foreign minister visited Damascus and met with Assad.

But Washington has eroded its political capital with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi by ignoring their concerns about regional rival Iran, ending its support for their war in Yemen and imposing conditions on US arms sales to the Gulf States. Read more

WAM said the parties stressed “the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of foreign forces” from the fragmented country where Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States all have a military presence.

They also discussed political and humanitarian support for Syria and its people to find a peaceful solution to all the challenges it faces, WAM reported.

WAM said Sheikh Mohammed “expressed his wishes that this visit paves the way for goodness, peace and stability in Syria and the whole region.” Assad briefed him on the latest developments in Syria, he added.

Assad was accompanied by Sheikh Mohammed to the airport.

Assad also met with the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Syrian presidency said in a statement.

These meetings marked the latest in a series of diplomatic overtures that indicate an ongoing change in the Middle East where several Arab countries are reconnecting with Assad.

Signs of rapprochement between Assad and Arab states have multiplied in the past year, including a phone call with King Abdullah of Jordan, another US ally. Read more

Analysts say political and economic considerations loom large for Arab states seeking closer ties with Assad, including how to counter the influence of Iran and Turkey.

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Reporting by Moataz Mohamed; Written by Tom Perry; Editing by Franklin Paul, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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