The Syrian Arab Republic announced yesterday that the United Arab Emirates and Oman have agreed to participate in the 61st annual Damascus International Fair. The fair, which will be launched at the end of August, will be attended by a forty-member delegation from the UAE and a thirty-five-member delegation from Oman, including fifteen representatives of the government in the latter.
The fair is a commercial exhibition held in Syria’s capital which attracts businesses and organisations from countries around the world to showcase their goods and services. Established in 1954, it is the oldest such fair in the Middle East but has witnessed a period of uncertainty over the past decade; it was cancelled in 2012 due to the Syrian civil war and only returned in 2017 once the conflict was pushed out to outlying provinces. This year’s fair is reportedly expected to host around 400 Arab and international businessmen and women.
The participation of the UAE and Oman will be the first of any of the Gulf States since Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011, following its brutal suppression of civil protests throughout the country and the resultant human rights violations.
Following the recapture of territory by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad over the past two years, with the help of Russia and Iran, there have been an increasing number of signs that Syria is being recognised again by the international community, particularly its Arab neighbours. The Arab League is considering the readmission of the war-torn country, in contradiction of its previous condemnation of the Syrian regime for its human rights violations and war crimes.
The presence of the UAE and Oman at the Damascus International Fair sheds light on the warmer relations between the Gulf Arab states and the Syrian regime. The UAE actually reopened its embassy in Damascus last year and appointed a chargé d’affaires, while the Omani Foreign Minister visited Assad in July.
According to Saudi Arabia in March, though, it is still too early to restore ties with Syria.