Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday made an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, his second to the Gulf since the February earthquake in Syria, as several Arab countries resumed contact with Damascus, long isolated diplomatically. He is "accompanied by his wife, Asma," the official Emirati news agency WAM reported, Asma Assad's first official trip abroad since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011.

He was welcomed in the capital Abu Dhabi by UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Emirati warplanes escorted the Syrian presidential plane as it entered Emirati airspace, the source said. "We have had talks aimed at developing bilateral relations," the UAE president said in a statement: "Our discussions also explored ways to strengthen cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region."

A return to the Arab League?

Bashar al-Assad has been diplomatically isolated since the 2011 crackdown on a popular uprising that escalated into civil war. Since the February 6 earthquake in Syria, Arab countries have stepped up contacts and sent aid to Damascus. "The UAE's approach and efforts towards Syria are part of a deeper vision and broader approach aimed at strengthening Arab and regional stability," said Anwar Gargash, senior adviser to the UAE president. "The UAE's position is clear on the need for Syria to return to 'the Arab fold' and this was confirmed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at today's meeting," he added on Twitter.

The Syrian president, whose country was excluded from the Arab League at the end of 2011, visited the Sultanate of Oman on 20th February, a first in twelve years of war in Syria. A discreet but important mediator on the diplomatic scene, Oman is one of the few Arab countries, and the only one in the Gulf, to have always maintained official diplomatic relations with Damascus since the beginning of the war. At the end of 2018, the Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus. And in March 2022, Bashar al-Assad made his first visit to an Arab country in Abu Dhabi. He was received by President Mohammed bin Zayed.

Efforts to help Syria after the earthquake were led by Abu Dhabi, which helped break its isolation. The UAE has also pledged more than $100 million in aid, dispatched a rescue team and provided thousands of tons of relief supplies. UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan also visited Syria in February, the first senior Gulf official to do so after the quake. It was his second trip to Syria this year.

  • Syria
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  • Arab League
  • Emirates
  • Bachar al Assad