The trip – al-Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in as many years – comes after a visit to Oman last month.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his first visit to the Gulf country since the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last month.
UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed al-Assad and his wife Asma to the capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the official WAM news agency reported, ahead of high-level meetings at the presidential palace. .
Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement on Twitter that the two men “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,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
The trip – al-Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in as many years – comes after a visit to Oman last month. These two trips are his only official engagements in Arab countries since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.
Abu Dhabi, which normalized relations with the isolated al-Assad government in 2018, has helped aid efforts following the February 6 earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and the north of Syria, killing tens of thousands of people.
The Syrian presidency said Asma, on her first known official visit abroad with al-Assad since 2011, would meet Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, who is the mother of the Emirati president and considered in the United Arab Emirates as the “mother of the nation “.
Today I welcomed President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to the United Arab Emirates and we had constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries. Our discussions also explored ways to strengthen cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region. pic.twitter.com/QlcIWomFDE
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) March 19, 2023
The visit marks a continuation of the ongoing thaw in relations between Syria and other Arab countries, more than a decade after the 22-member Arab League suspended Damascus’ membership due to a crackdown on al- Assad against protesters and later against civilians during the war.
International sympathy after the earthquake seems to have accelerated the regional rapprochement that had been simmering 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 adviser Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
“The UAE’s position is clear on the need for Syria to regain” its place in the Arab world and regain its legitimacy in the region, Gargash said on Twitter.
“This was confirmed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed during his meeting today” with al-Assad, the adviser added.
The United Arab Emirates has pledged more than $100 million in aid to earthquake-hit Syria, by far the largest sum from a single country.
It also dispatched a search and rescue team, provided thousands of tons of emergency relief items and provided medical care to Syrian earthquake victims in Emirati hospitals.
And UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan last month became the first senior Arab official to visit Syria since the quake.
Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said Abu Dhabi “is convinced, along with many Arab states, that the time has come to reconcile with Assad…and to see Syria back into the Arab League and into the Arab fold. “.
“The United Arab Emirates is spearheading efforts to reconcile with enemies of the past and transform them into friends of tomorrow,” Abdulla told AFP news agency.