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UAE sends first ambassador to Syria since 2011

January 30, 2024 at 4:27 pm

Flag of Syrian Arab Republic [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates has dispatched an ambassador to Damascus for the first time since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, Syria’s state media reported today, in a new signal of Syria’s warming ties with the Arab region, Reuters reports.

Incoming Emirati envoy Hassan Al-Shehi presented his credentials to Syria’s Foreign Affair Minister Faysal Al-Meqdad at the Foreign Ministry.

Syria has been slowly re-establishing diplomatic ties with the Arab region in recent years, after many recalled their envoys and closed embassies in reaction to President Bashar Al-Assad’s crackdown on protests against him in 2011.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, to a lesser extent, the UAE then backed rebels against Al-Assad – but Abu Dhabi has rebuilt ties with Damascus in recent years.

Al-Assad visited the UAE in 2022 – his first trip to an Arab state since the civil war erupted – and again in 2023 after a devastating earthquake killed thousands in Syria.

The tragedy cleared the way for a thaw in Arab ties with Al-Assad and months later the Arab League reversed its more than decade-long suspension of Syria’s membership.

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which last year reached an agreement with rival Iran to restore bilateral ties, has opened the door for possible dialogue with Damascus especially on humanitarian issues.

Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that Riyadh would be sending an ambassador to Damascus soon.

More than half a million Syrians have been killed since the uprising in 2011, including more than 4,360 who were killed in 2023 alone. The figure was an increase in 2022, when 3,825 people were killed. Some 13 million Syrians were displaced and 6.7 million refugees were forced to flee into neighbouring countries and further afield.

READ: Iraq completes construction of border wall with Syria