Syrian President Bashar Al Assad arrived yesterday in the UAE, his second visit to the Gulf since a devastating earthquake last month prompted Arab outreach to his internationally-isolated government.
The trip – Assad’s second to the UAE in as many years – comes after a visit to Oman last month, his only official engagements in Arab countries since the start of Syria’s war in 2011.
“Bashar Al Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic, arrived today in the UAE on an official visit, accompanied by his wife, Asma,” UAE state media said yesterday.
The Syrian leader was greeted in the capital Abu Dhabi by UAE President Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, official news agency Wam reported.
Abu Dhabi, which normalised relations with Assad’s government in 2018, has led aid efforts in the aftermath of the February 6 earthquake that struck south-eastern Türkiye and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands.
Analysts say a diplomatic momentum generated by aid efforts in the quake’s aftermath could bolster Damascus’s relations with Middle Eastern countries that have so far resisted normalisation after more than a decade of war.
The UAE had pledged more than $100 million in assistance to quake-hit Syria, by far the largest sum by any single nation.
It had also dispatched a search and rescue team and provided thousands of tonnes in emergency relief items.
UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Syria last month – the first senior Gulf official to do so since the quake.
During the war in Syria, Assad had rarely gone abroad, with the notable exception of allies Iran and Russia, where he visited again this week.