Abu Dhabi: The UAE announced on Thursday the resumption of its diplomatic service in Damascus in a sign of softening relations between the Syrian government and the Arab world after years of diplomatic isolation.
The Emirates closed its embassy in the early phases of the Syrian conflict but the reopening ceremony on Thursday afternoon marked significant reconciliation between Damascus and Abu Dhabi, which was previously part of the international Friends of Syria collective which supported opposition groups.
Thursday’s resumption of diplomatic ties is the latest sign President Bashar Al Assad has emerged unscathed from a war in which more than 500,000 Syrians are estimated to have died.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargah said the Emirate’s decision comes after a “careful reading of developments” and the “birth of a conviction” that the coming phase requires Arab involvement in the “Syrian dossier” to protect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He said on Twitter that an Arab role in Syria has become “necessary” to combat the growing influence of Turkey and Iran.
“The UAE is working to activate this role through it’s presence in Damascus,” he said, adding that the Emirates is also hoping to contribute to political solution to the war.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said the reopening of the embassy “reaffirms the keenness of the UAE to restore relations between the two friendly countries to their normal course”.
Thursday’s move “will strengthen and activate the Arab role in supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian Arab affairs,” the ministry said.
Speaking outside the embassy, the UAE’s charge d’affaires to Damascus, Abdul Hakim Al Nuaime, welcomed Syria back into the Arab fold and said other Arab states would soon reopen embassies in the country.
Diplomatic figures, including Iraq’s ambassador to Damascus, took part in the reopening ceremony.
In October, Mr Al Assad told a Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a “major understanding” with Arab states.
Earlier this month, Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir became the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the start of the conflict.
Vital ally Russia has been active in lobbying for the regime to be welcomed back among Arab nations. President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East said this week that Mr Al Assad remained popular. “If he wasn’t, the results of the last few years would have been different,” Mikhail Bogdanov said.
Arab League states are now considering reinstating Syria’s membership of the pan-Arab body, seven years after it was expelled over the government’s violent response to protests at the start of the war.
There is now a growing feeling among the league’s 22 members that Syria should be readmitted to the alliance, with the Arab Parliament arguing that Syria must be welcomed back.
Recently, the UAE has been increasingly active in promoting diplomacy as a critical tool towards increasing peace and stability in the Middle East.
Renovations have been under way on the UAE embassy compound in the Abu Ramaneh district of Damascus in recent days. On Thursday afternoon, local television showed a worker installing the UAE’s seal on a wall outside the embassy. Throughout the war, Syria maintained its consulates in the UAE.
SOURCE: The National