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Several European countries to reopen embassies in Damascus in near future, sources say

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, a Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria, on April 20, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Western diplomatic sources in Syria say they expect a number of European countries to reopen diplomatic missions in Damascus in the “near future” after President Bashar al-Assad won a landslide re-election victory last week.  

Syria's al-Watan daily, citing the sources, reported that diplomats from Greece, Hungary and Serbia have already arrived in Damascus, and preparations are underway to reopen their embassies. 

Italy, the source also said, has recently agreed to accredit a Syrian diplomat as a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, and he may arrive there soon to carry out his duties.

On Sunday, Syria’s Bar Association signed a contract with the Embassy of Cyprus to lease a building in the upscale Abu Rummaneh neighborhood to the Cypriot side to reopen its embassy in Damascus.

Earlier, Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal al-Miqdad said several embassies had already resumed their operations in Damascus, and more Arab and Western embassies will reopen within the next few days.

“We will not allow the United States to abort the opening of the embassies,” Miqdad pointed out.

“We are on the course of mending Arab-Arab relations… Russian friends and others are making efforts in this regard. Meetings are taking place, but with regard to the situation between Arab countries, we do not hide anything. We are optimistic that there will be steps in this field,” he added.

Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media adviser to President Assad, told Sham FM radio station on May 26 that efforts were underway to improve diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia after more than a decade of estrangement between the two Arab nations.

“Efforts are being made to upgrade ties with Saudi Arabia, and may soon have positive results,” Shaaban said.

She also hailed the recent visit by Syrian Tourism Minister Mohammed Rami Martini to Saudi Arabia in the first such trip by a Syrian minister to the kingdom in recent years.

Martini traveled to Riyadh to attend the 47th meeting of the World Tourism Organization Committee for the Middle East on May 26 and 27, according to official Syrian news agency SANA.

His visit came upon an official invitation from the Saudi Tourism Ministry and the World Tourism Organization Committee for the Middle East for Martini to participate in the meeting, SANA added.

President Xi Congratulates Assad

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday congratulated Assad on his re-election, and pledged all possible assistance in the economic recovery of the Arab country.

“China strongly supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, will provide all possible assistance in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, in revitalizing the country's economy and improving the lives of the population, will help to ensure that the Sino-Syrian cooperation rises to a new level,” a statement published by state-run China Central Television read.

Xi said China and Syria are traditionally friendly states and that Syria was one of the first Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with China.

“I attach great importance to the development of Sino-Syrian relations, and I am ready, together with President Assad, to develop Sino-Syrian relations to achieve even greater success,” the Chinese leader pointed out.

The Syrian parliament announced last Thursday that President Assad won his fourth seven-year term in the May 26 presidential race.

Hamoudeh Sabbagh, the parliament speaker, said that Assad won 95.1 percent of the vote as opposed to 88.7 percent in the 2014 election.

He said that about 14 million of the estimated 18 million eligible voters inside and outside Syria cast their votes, with a turnout rate of 78.64 percent.

Assad's competitors, former Deputy Cabinet Minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and head of a Syrian opposition party Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, won 3.3 and 1.5 percent of the vote respectively.

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