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Bashar al-Assad Visits UAE Following Earthquake in Gulf Region

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On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates, on his second visit to the Gulf since the devastating earthquake that occurred last month, prompting Arabs to reach out to his internationally isolated government.

The trip – Assad’s second to the oil-rich UAE in several years – follows a visit to the Sultanate of Oman last month, and is his only official engagement in Arab countries since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.

UAE official media reported that “President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar al-Assad, arrived today (Sunday) in the UAE on an official visit, accompanied by his wife, Asma.”

And the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) stated that the UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was receiving the Syrian president in the capital, Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, which normalized relations with the Assad government in 2018, led relief efforts in the aftermath of the Feb. 6 earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands.

Analysts say the diplomatic momentum generated by aid efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake could boost Damascus’ ties with Middle Eastern countries that have hitherto resisted normalization after more than a decade of war.

The United Arab Emirates has pledged more than $100 million to help earthquake-stricken Syria, the largest amount by any country.

It also sent a search and rescue team and provided thousands of tons of emergency relief materials.

Last month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Syria, the first senior Gulf official to do so since the earthquake.

During the war in Syria, Assad rarely went abroad, with the notable exception of allies Iran and Russia – visiting again this week and meeting President Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, Iranian security official Ali Shamkhani met with the Emirati president in Abu Dhabi and held talks with the Emirati National Security Adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who attended Assad’s reception Sunday at the presidential palace.

The foreign minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who also sent earthquake aid to Syria, said last month that there is a consensus in the Arab world on the need for a new approach in dealing with Damascus to confront humanitarian crises, including the earthquake.

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