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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the government commission overseeing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on May 4, 2020.

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates on Friday during his first visit to an Arab state since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, underscoring warm ties with a US-allied country that once supported rebels who sought him. expulsion.

Assad met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who “emphasized that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security and that the UAE would like to strengthen cooperation with it,” the state news agency of the Emirates (WAM) reported. .

Assad’s only trips outside Syria during the war were to Iran and Russia, close allies whose military support helped him turn the tide against opponents backed by governments, including US-affiliated Gulf states.

A video posted by WAM shows Assad laughing as he stands next to Sheikh Mohammed in front of the Syrian and Emirati flags, gesturing and smiling during conversations.

The United States has resisted attempts to normalize or rehabilitate ties with Assad until progress is made towards a political solution to the conflict, which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since the uprising against Assad emerged.

Washington expressed concern in November when the UAE’s foreign minister visited Damascus and met with Assad.

But Washington has eroded its political capital with both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi by ignoring their concerns about regional rival Iran, ending its support for their war in Yemen, and lowering the terms on US arms sales to the Gulf states.

WAM said the parties emphasized “preserving Syria’s territorial integrity and withdrawing foreign troops” from the fragmented country where Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States all have a military presence.

They also discussed political and humanitarian support for Syria and its people to find a peaceful solution to all the challenges it faces, WAM reported.

WAM said Sheikh Mohammed “expressed his wish that this visit pave the way for goodness, peace and stability in Syria and the entire region”. Assad informed him about the latest developments in Syria.

Assad was turned away at the airport by Sheikh Mohammed.

Assad also met with the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Syrian presidency said in a statement.

The meetings were the latest in a series of diplomatic overtures that signal a shift in the Middle East, where several Arab countries are reviving ties with Assad.

Signs of rapprochement between Assad and the Arab states mounted last year, including a phone call with King Abdullah of Jordan, another US ally.

Analysts say political and economic considerations are looming for Arab states seeking closer ties with Assad, including how to counter the influence of Iran and Turkey.

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This post Assad of Syria visits UAE, first trip to Arab state since the start of the war

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