UAE envoy to visit Damascus

By Abdellatif El-Menawy, CNN • Updated 24th May 2020 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Damascus Sunday for…

UAE envoy to visit Damascus


By Abdellatif El-Menawy, CNN • Updated 24th May 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Damascus Sunday for a high-profile visit to Syria.

In a widely anticipated visit, he is the highest-profile Emirati official to visit the war-torn country since the outbreak of the war in 2011.

The two nations are longtime allies but have cooperated on a range of issues, including anti-terrorism efforts and media regulation.

Their relations have however fallen in recent years as the Arab Gulf state has largely avoided the belligerent policies of other U.S. allies in the region.

One of the diplomatic struggles of Sheikh Abdullah’s visit will be the last links between the UAE and Lebanon, which the UAE has maintained since the 1960s.

They form the largest Arab community in Lebanon, with around 70,000 Lebanese residing in the UAE. The UAE has so far not expressed an interest in withdrawing their citizens.

After a brief stop at a landmark hotel in Damascus, Sheikh Abdullah was given a tour of the city by Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

“He (Assad) welcomes this meeting and welcomes this visit to his country,” Syrian Ambassador to the U.A.E., Ali Haidar, told reporters in Beirut on Sunday, according to the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar.

“Sheikh Abdullah was given an opportunity to see a glimpse of the importance of this (visit). It’s his first visit to Damascus after years, so that is proof of the depth of the relationship between Syria and the UAE. He became the first Arab foreign minister to meet the Syrian president (in seven years).”

The UAE’s support for the Syrian rebels is unlikely to change. In 2016, the Abu Dhabi-based Qatari-funded Al-Jazeera International broadcast footage of a UAE fighter, who was unshaven and wearing hospital equipment on his head, claiming to have been wounded by a white phosphorus bomb.

But as the city of Raqqa fell to ISIS in October 2017, a reporter for CNN found no evidence of UAE training or aid efforts. The reporter was barred from entering the city during that time.

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