Assad arrives in UAE for official visit as relations warm
The Gulf countries continue to improve relations with Syria despite opposition from Washington
By News Desk - March 19 2023

(Photo Credit Hamad Al Kaabi/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 19 March for talks with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

The two discussed the issue of stability in West Asia and the necessity of bringing Syria back into the Arab fold after a decade of isolation from western and Gulf countries, the National has reported.

Syria’s president was accompanied by first lady Asma al-Assad and the couple were welcomed at a ceremony at the Al-Watan Palace in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Mohamed stated: “I welcomed President Bashar Al Assad of Syria to the UAE today, and we held constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries. Our discussions also explored ways of enhancing co-operation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region.”

President Assad visited the UAE last March, in his first visit to a Gulf country since the start of the US-backed war on Syria starting in 2011. The US, Britain, Israel and the Gulf countries armed and funded extremist Salafist militias to topple Syria’s government.

Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE President, explained that “The UAE’s position is clear regarding the need for Syria to return,” and that, “The events associated with the decade of chaos and their repercussions have proven that our Arab world is more deserving of addressing its issues and crises, away from regional and international interference.”

Gulf willingness to restore relations with Syria has increased over the past year and accelerated further following February’s devastating earthquake which struck both Syria and Turkiye. Many Arab nations that previously participated in the US war against Syria sent humanitarian aid, including Saudi Arabia.

Though exceptions were made for earthquake relief, Washington has insisted that US sanctions on Syria not be lifted.

Improved relations between the Gulf states and Syria comes despite US opposition, in a sign that Washington’s influence in the region may be waning.

“Washington’s allies in the region are showing an increased tendency to detach from escalatory approaches [towards Damascus],” particularly after the quake, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar wrote. This is something that the US finds unacceptable, as it has continued to condemn any normalization with Syria.

In a further sign that US influence may be weakening, long time US-ally Saudi Arabia recently committed to normalize relations with Iran, Washington and Tel Aviv’s long-time enemy, in talks brokered by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Saudi Arabia and Iran affirmed their respect for sovereignty, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and working to implement security and economic agreements signed in previous decades. Iran and Saudi Arabia also declared their intention to promote regional and international peace and security.

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