Syria’s President Assad pictured meeting UAE rulers in first visit since brutal civil war began | World News

President Bashar Al Assad has traveled to the United Arab Emirates, his first visit to an Arab country since the outbreak of Syria’s brutal civil war in 2011.

More than 350,000 people have died in over a decade of fighting in Syria, according to the UN, with millions of people forced to flee their homes, their lives changed forever.

Large parts of the country have been destroyed, and swathes of ancient and prosperous cities like Aleppo – one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – reduced to ruins.

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors following the outbreak of war, but the new visit appears to signal a shift in approach.

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said he was “profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar Al Assad”.

It comes amid reports that Russia is seeking to use Syrian fighters to bolster its forces in Ukraine.

Assad, left, meets with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi

In a statement posted on its social media pages, the presidency office says Assad met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of dubaion Friday.

With the war in Syria having fallen into a stalemate and Assad recovering control over most of the country thanks to military assistance from allies Russia and IranArab countries have inched closer toward restoring ties with the Syrian leader in recent years.

It is believed that a key motive for Sunni Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf is to blunt the involvement of their Shiite-led foe, Iran, which saw its influence expand rapidly in the chaos of Syria’s war.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Damascus in January 2020
Assad speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Damascus in January 2020

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency said the country’s de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Assad to his palace in Abu Dhabi.

At the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed expressed his hope “this visit would be the beginning of peace and stability for Syria and the entire region”.

The report said Assad briefed Sheikh Mohammed on the latest developments in Syria, and they discussed mutual interests in the Arab world.

In September last year, the UN’s humanitarian affairs chief warned that Syria, after more than a decade of war, remains “caught in a downward spiral” and that “the country will continue to be a place of tragedy, so long as the conflict continues .”

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