DAMASCUS: The United Arab Emirates has reopened its embassy in Damascus, the latest sign of efforts to bring the Syrian government back into the Arab fold.
The UAE broke ties with Syria in February 2012 as the repression of nationwide protests demanding regime change was escalating into a devastating war. Nearly seven years later, the Emirati flag was raised at a ceremony attended by diplomats and journalists on Thursday, 27 December.
An acting charge d’affaires has already started working, an Emirati statement said, stressing that the UAE was “keen to put relations back on their normal track”. It said that the resumption of ties aimed to “support the sovereignty and independence of Syria” and face “the dangers of regional interferences”.
A few hours after the UAE’s announcement, Bahrain signalled its intention to reopen its embassy in Damascus, which has been closed since March 2012. The Gulf state’s foreign ministry said it was “anxious to continue relations” with Syria and wants “to strengthen the Arab role and reactivate it to preserve the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and prevent the risk of regional interference in its affairs”.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 as the death toll was escalating and several regional powers bet on President Assad’s demise. The conflict has now killed more than 360,000 people.
Trade with Jordan resumed in recent weeks after the reopening of a border crossing and Thursday saw the first commercial flight to Tunisia in years. A Cham Wings Airlines jet completed the first flight between the two countries since 2011.
It is not yet clear if more Arab countries, several of which were accused by Mr Assad of once supporting extremist militants and rebels, will follow in the UAE’s footsteps.
Last week’s announcement by the White House that United States troops would be pulled out also cleared the path for Turkey to muscle in on Kurdish areas in north-eastern Syria.
US President Donald Trump had said Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional arch foe, had agreed to finance Syria’s huge reconstruction needs. “Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the US,” he said.