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Assad of Syria in the United Arab Emirates for the second visit to the Gulf after the earthquake

The trip, al-Assad’s second to the oil-rich country in as many years, follows a visit to Oman last month.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on his first visit to the Gulf country since the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria last month.

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan greeted al-Assad and his wife Asma in the capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the official WAM news agency said, ahead of high-level meetings at the palace. presidential.

Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement on Twitter that the two “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, follows a visit to Oman last month. The 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 internationally isolated al-Assad government in 2018, has contributed to relief efforts following the February 6 earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands. .

The Syrian presidency said that 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 is regarded in the United Arab Emirates as the “Mother of the Nation”.

The visit marks a continuation in the ongoing thaw in relations between Syria and other Arab countries, more than a decade after the 22-member Arab League suspended Damascus’ membership over al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters and then against civilians during the war.

International sympathy after the earthquake seems to have accelerated the 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,” top Emirati presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

“The UAE position is clear regarding the need for Syria to return” to its place in the Arab world and regain 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 assistance to help quake-hit Syria, by far the largest sum from a single nation.

It also dispatched a search and rescue team, provided thousands of tons of emergency relief items, and provided medical treatment to Syrian earthquake victims at Emirati hospitals.

And the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, last month became the first senior Arab official to visit Syria since the earthquake.

Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said Abu Dhabi “is convinced, along with many Arab states, that the time has come to reconcile with Assad… and see Syria return to the Arab League and the Arab fold.”

“The UAE is leading efforts to reconcile with the enemies of the past and transform them into the friends of tomorrow,” Abdulla told the AFP news agency.

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