Assad in the UAE on the second visit to the Gulf after the earthquake
The trip – Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in several years – follows a visit to Oman last month.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates on his first visit to the Gulf country since the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria last month.
The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported that the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, received President Al-Assad and his wife, Asma, in the capital, Abu Dhabi, today, Sunday, before high-level meetings at the presidential palace.
Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement on Twitter that the two countries “held constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries.”
Sheikh Mohammed added, “Our discussions also discussed ways to enhance cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region.”
The trip – Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in several years – follows a visit to Oman last month. The two trips are his only official engagements in Arab countries since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.
Abu Dhabi, which normalized relations with the internationally isolated Assad government in 2018, contributed to relief efforts in the aftermath of the February 6 earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands.
The Syrian presidency said that Asma, in her first known official visit with al-Assad since 2011, would meet Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the mother of the Emirati president, who is considered in the Emirates as the “Mother of the Emirates.”
I received Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Emirates today, and we held constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries. Our discussions also explored ways to enhance cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region. pic.twitter.com/QlcIWomFDE
– Mohammed bin Zayed (MohamedBinZayed) March 19, 2023
The visit marks a continuation of the ongoing warming of relations between Syria and other Arab countries, more than a decade after Arab members of the 22-nation Arab League suspended Damascus over Assad’s campaign against protesters, and later against civilians, during the war.
International sympathy in the aftermath of the earthquake appears to have accelerated a process of regional rapprochement that had been brewing for years.
“The UAE’s approach and efforts towards Syria are part of a deeper vision and broader approach aimed at strengthening Arab and regional stability,” Emirati presidential advisor Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
Gargash said on Twitter, “The UAE’s position is clear on the need for Syria to return to” its place in the Arab world and to restore its legitimacy in the region.
The advisor added, “This was confirmed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed during his meeting today” with Al-Assad.
The United Arab Emirates has pledged more than $100 million to help earthquake-stricken Syria, the largest amount by any single country.
It also sent a search and rescue team, provided thousands of tons of emergency relief materials, and provided medical treatment for the victims of the Syrian earthquake in Emirati hospitals.
Last month, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan became the first senior Arab official to visit Syria since the earthquake.
Emirati analyst Abd al-Khaliq Abdullah said that Abu Dhabi is “convinced, along with many Arab countries, that the time has come to reconcile with Assad… and to see Syria return to the Arab and Arab League.”
“The United Arab Emirates is leading efforts to reconcile with the enemies of the past and turn them into the friends of tomorrow,” Abdullah told Agence France-Presse.