Bashar Al-Assad, banned from the Arab world for a decade, was received by the UAE’s de facto leader, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Ben Zayed Al Nahyan, on Friday, March 18, to discuss this “fraternal relations” between the two countries, according to the official Emirati agency WAM.
The two men spoke “Cooperation and coordination between the two fraternal countries”with a view to “Contribution to Security, Stability and Peace in the Arab World and the Middle East”, adds the same source. According to WAM, the two leaders also insisted “preserving Syria’s territorial integrity and withdrawing foreign forces”calls Mohammed Ben Zayed the country a “Cornerstones of Arab Security”.
According to an official Syrian statement, Mohammed bin Zayed emphasized this “The Emirates’ position is consistent in its support for Syria’s territorial integrity and stability.” According to the statement released by the official Syrian news agency SANA and the Syrian Presidency on social networks, “The Crown Prince expressed the Emirates’ concern to strengthen cooperation with Syria to fulfill the aspirations of the two brotherly peoples.”
Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met the Syrian President in Damascus in November during the first visit by a senior Gulf monarchy official since the war in Syria began in 2011.
Syria was expelled from the Arab League at the end of 2011, the Arab countries, including the Gulf States, protested against the repression of Damascus power against pro-democracy demonstrations. This crackdown quickly escalated into a devastating war involving multiple actors, including several foreign powers and jihadist groups, that left half a million dead and millions displaced.
In February 2012, the Emirates and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries announced and denounced the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Syria “collective massacre” committed by the Syrian authorities.
But by late 2018, Abu Dhabi, increasingly occupying its divergent positions on the diplomatic scene, had reopened its embassy in Damascus. The United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich country close to the West, is marking its difference in the region by recently normalizing ties with Israel or showing its closeness to Russia amid the Ukraine crisis.
Another Gulf country, Bahrain, which closed its diplomatic mission in Damascus in March 2012, also announced this in 2018 ” pursue “ Work at his embassy in Syria, which reflects his intention to reopen it. Bahrain said to himself at the time “I am eager to continue the relationship” with Syria.
Bashar Al-Assad, who concluded his visit at the end of the day on Friday, also met Sheikh Mohammed Ben Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, the country’s other major emirate where he previously landed. This visit by the Syrian President, whose regime now controls two-thirds of Syria, appears to be a further step towards normalizing relations between Damascus and certain Arab countries.
While Syria’s exclusion from the Arab League no longer seems unanimous, another influential Gulf country, Qatar, is still opposed. Last month, Doha even hosted leaders of Syrian opposition groups determined to try to unite against President Bashar al-Assad, despite their divisions.
In addition to the diplomatic front, the Syrian authorities are also trying to revive ties with regional neighbors for the economic reconstruction of the war-torn country.