Assad’s second diplomatic trip in a few days accelerates the process of easing isolation

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for an official visit, a sign of growing momentum as he returns to the international arena after a decade of isolation. create.

Considered deposed in many parts of the world for overseeing the bombing and torture of his own people when the 2011 uprising turned into a civil war, al-Assad was welcomed in Abu Dhabi. Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, on Sunday with a 21-gun salute, according to a report published by the official Emirates News Agency.

The trip comes a few days after Mr. al-Assad arrived in Moscow to meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putinand almost a year since the Syrian leader’s last visit to the United Arab Emirates, it was his first reception with an Arab country since the Syrian civil war began. head.

At the time, a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said that Washington was “deeply disappointed and concerned by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad, who remains in charge and accountable. about the death and suffering of countless Syrians, the displacement of more than half of Syria’s population before the war, and the arbitrary detention and disappearance of more than 150,000 Syrian men, women and children.”

However, Mr. al-Assad’s normalization in the Middle East has only gained traction since then as other Arab leaders grapple with the fact that he remains in power.

Mahdi Dakhlallah, a politician and diplomat with the Syrian Baath Party, said: “For the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries, it is an acknowledgment of the new reality of Syria, that is, It cannot be removed anymore.”

The agency said he was received by a delegation that included the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and that the two discussed “brotherly relations” between the nations. their family. Sheikh Mohammed also offered condolences to the victims of the massacre. Deadly earthquakes hit Syria and Turkey last monthAt the same time, he expressed confidence that Syria will overcome the crisis and “step into a new era”.

Last month’s earthquake, which killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria, put al-Assad in the softer light of disaster diplomacy, allowing him to further strengthen his position in the region. After the earthquake, he met a number of Arab officials, including the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, who traveled to Damascus to offer condolences. The United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million in aid.

Sunday was the first time in years that Mr. al-Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad, appeared with him on an official visit. Twitter account of the Syrian president shared photos of her in a white suitsmiling and chatting with the Emirati delegation.

The United Arab Emirates is a small, oil-rich Persian Gulf country with unsurpassed global influence where officials want to maintain ties with competing powers, including the United States. , China, Russia and Iran. It took the lead among Arab countries in re-establishing ties with Mr. al-Assad’s government and reopening its embassy in Syria in 2018.

Dakhlallah said the visit to Abu Dhabi was “an affirmation of Syria’s restoration to its role”. “It’s still in the early stages, but it’s already begun.”

Saudi Arabia, the regional political heavyweight, has yet to follow suit. When the rebellion began, the original kingdom supported rebel groups fighting against the forces of Mr. al-Assad’s government. But when the earthquake hit, the kingdom sent planes laden with aid to both Syrian government-controlled and opposition-controlled territories.

At a conference in Germany last month, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, acknowledged that Arab countries had reached a “stalemate” with the Syrian government and that the deadlock did not ease the pain of Syrians in Syria or abroad.

“There is a consensus in the Arab world that the status quo is not working and we need to find some other approach,” he said. “What that approach is, it’s still under construction.”

Ahmed Al Omran contribution report.


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