UAE Reopens Damascus Embassy For First Time Since 2011

Geraldine Edwards
December 30, 2018

On Thursday afternoon, the UAE flag was hoisted over the embassy in Damascus for the first time in seven years amid a diplomatic presence of Iraq, Sudan, Tunisia, and Algeria.

However, an ambassador will not be immediately stationed, an Emirati government source told CNN. A foreign ministry statement said the move aimed to normalise ties and to curb risks of regional interference in "Arab, Syrian affairs" - an apparent reference to non-Arab Iran, whose support for Al-Assad has been critical to his war effort.

Zou Zhiqiang, a researcher from Shanghai International Studies University, said the reopening officially marks the beginning of Arab countries' reconciliation with the Syrian government.

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Bahrain closed its Damascus embassy in 2011 after the eruption of the Syrian uprising and subsequent crackdown on protesters by Syria's Assad regime.

UAE and Bahrain recently announced opening up their respective diplomatic missions in Damascus, the war-ravaged country's capital. An Arab diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters last week he believed a majority of members wanted Syria to be readmitted. However, Arab countries had also sanctioned Damascus and criticized its use of military forces against the opposition.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is reportedly going to pay an official visit to Syria early next year amid promising signs that the incumbent Damascus government led by President Bashar al-Assad is being admitted back into the Arab world. That is when the State Department announced that Saudi Arabia had committed $100 million to a fund to stabilize areas of Syria liberated from ISIS terrorists by a USA -led coalition.

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In October, Bahrain's foreign minister embraced his Syrian counterpart at the United Nations which, although described by officials as an "unplanned" meeting, was perceived by many as an attempt to re-engage with Syria after years of regional isolation.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in 2011.

The diplomatic thaw comes after the USA announced plans to pull its troops from Syria.

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"Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States", Trump said on Twitter.

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