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Assad visits UAE in first trip to Arab state since civil war

March 19, 2022

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's trip was the latest sign of rapprochement between Syria and other Arab states. The UAE's de facto ruler welcomed Assad, saying Syria was "a fundamental pillar of Arab security."

Bashar al-Assad meets Crown Prince Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Sheikh Mohammed (R) stressed on preserving the territorial integrity of Syria during his meeting Bashar al-Assad (L)Image: Emirates News Agency/AP/picture alliance

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held talks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, his office said. This was his first official visit to an Arab country since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

Assad's only trips outside Syria during the war have been to Iran and Russia. Both nations have been key supporters of his regime.

During the one-day visit, Assad met with the UAE's de facto ruler and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

The two sides discussed "fraternal relations" between their countries, Emirati state news agency WAM reported.

What did the leaders say?

Sheikh Mohammed "stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security and that the UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with it," WAM reported.

He hoped Assad's visit would "pave the way for goodness, peace and stability to prevail in Syria and the entire region, it added.

The Syrian president also held a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.

Assad stressed the UAE's role in the region during the meetings, according to the state-run Syrian News Agency (SANA).

"Therefore, to protect our region we must continue to adhere to our principles, the sovereignty of our countries and the interests of our people," he said.

Bashar al-Assad meets Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Bashar al-Assad (L) also met with the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai (R)Image: SANA/dpa/picture alliance

Syria revives relations with Arab states

Several Arab countries have been reviving their ties with Damascus, suggesting an effort to bring Syria back into the Arab fold.

The UAE, a US-allied country, had broken ties with Syria in February 2012 and later backed rebels who sought Assad's ouster.

It reopened its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, and in March 2021, called for Syria's return to the Arab League.

In November, UAE's foreign minister met Assad in the Syrian capital for the first time since the civil war began.

How did the US respond?

The visit drew a sharp rebuke from Washington, which said it opposed efforts to normalise ties or rehabilitate Assad.

The US State Department added it was "profoundly disappointed and troubled" by what it called an apparent attempt to legitimize Assad.

"We urge states considering engagement with the Assad regime to weigh carefully the horrific atrocities visited by the regime on the Syrians over the last decade," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The timing of Assad's visit coincided with the 11th anniversary of the anti-government uprising in Syria.

adi/jcg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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