ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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UAE sends first ambassador to Syria since civil war began

Saudi Arabia also opens door for diplomatic ties and may send an ambassador to Damascus soon

Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) meeting his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Abu Dhabi, March 19, 2023. (Rashed Al-Mansoori/UAE Presidential Court/AFP)
Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) meeting his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Abu Dhabi, March 19, 2023. (Rashed Al-Mansoori/UAE Presidential Court/AFP)

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 on Tuesday, in a new signal of Syria’s warming ties with the Arab region.

Incoming Emirati envoy Hassan al-Shehi presented his credentials to Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Faysal al-Meqdad at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

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 Syrian 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 Assad — but Abu Dhabi has rebuilt ties with Damascus in recent years.

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 Assad and months later, the Arab League reversed its more than decade-long suspension of Syria’s membership.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 19, 2023. (Syrian Presidency via AP)

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.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the Syria conflict, which spiraled out of an uprising against Assad, splintering the country and drawing in numerous foreign powers.

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