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UAE sends first ambassador to Syria in 13 years

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad meets with new ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Syria, Hassan al-Shehi, in Damascus, Syria, on January 30, 2024. (Photo by Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates has dispatched the country’s first ambassador to Syria after 13 years, following the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two Arab countries.

The incoming Emirati envoy officially presented his credentials to Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad at the Arab country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the capital Damascus on Tuesday.

According to Syria’s official SANA news agency, Hassan al-Shehi conveyed to the Syrian side his commitment to enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries during his meeting with Mikdad.

He also pledged to work to strengthen cooperation and achieve mutual progress between the two Arab countries.

For his part, Mekdad expressed Syria’s deep appreciation for the UAE’s solidarity with and support for Syria during challenging times.

Shehi arrived in Syria on Monday to become the first envoy of his country to Syria since 2011. He had served as the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Iraq since 2015, and before that, had been the ambassador to Sudan.

The UAE cut its relations with Syria in 2012, a year after Damascus found itself in the grips of foreign-backed terrorism and violence, but it reopened its embassy in Damascus in December 2018 amid Syria’s increasing success in recapturing vast swathes of its territory and turning the tide against the foreign-sponsored terrorists.

Before Shehi arrived in Syria a charge d’affaires had been in charge of the diplomatic mission.

In March 2022, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad traveled to the UAE, meeting with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Assad’s visit to the UAE took place only months after the Emirates’ Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan traveled to the Syrian capital Damascus.

In May 2022, the 22-member Arab League agreed to reinstate Syria, ending a 12-year suspension and taking another step toward bringing Assad, back into the fold.

Saudi Arabia, which last year reached an agreement with Iran to restore bilateral ties, has opened the door for possible dialogue with Damascus in another signal of Syria’s warming ties with the Arab world.

Syrian daily Al-Watan has reported that Riyadh would be sending an ambassador to Damascus soon.

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