Assad in UAE, gets president’s nod for return to Arab fold

Published March 20, 2023
Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, meets Bashar Al Assad, President of Syria, during a reception at Qasr Al Watan on Sunday.—Reuters
Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, meets Bashar Al Assad, President of Syria, during a reception at Qasr Al Watan on Sunday.—Reuters

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Sunday told his Syrian counterpart it was time for diplomatically isolated Damascus to be reintegrated into the wider Arab region during a meeting in Abu Dhabi, state media reported.

The trip by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — his second to the oil-rich United Arab Emirates in as many years — comes after a visit to Oman last month, his only official engagement in Arab countries since the start of Syria’s war in 2011.

It coincides with amplified engagement by Arab states towards the Damascus government which has been politically isolated in the region since the start of Syria’s war and was expelled from the Cairo-based Arab League in 2011 over its violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.

“Syria has been absent from its brothers for too long, and the time has come for it to return to them and to its Arab surroundings,” Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told Assad during a meeting at the presidential palace, according to the official WAM news agency.

The Emirati president called for efforts to facilitate the repatriation of Syrian refugees and endorsed engagement between Damascus and Ankara, which is now working towards a rapprochement with Assad after years of supporting rebels fighting his government, according to WAM.

Abu Dhabi, which normalised relations with Assad’s government in 2018, has led aid efforts in the aftermath of the Feb 6 earthquake that struck southeastern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023

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