The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making efforts to restore Syria’s relations with the Arab World, specifically with Saudi Arabia, Syria’s Al-Watan reported on January 24.
Sources familiar with the matter told the government-aligned newspaper that UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan discussed the Syrian-Saudi rapprochement with President Bashar al-Assad during his surprise visit to Damascus earlier this month.
The sources noted that Abdullah bin Zayed send a message to his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, just a few hours after returning from Syria.
Initially, the minister’s visit was linked to Russia’s ongoing efforts to restore ties between Ankara and Damascus. This has been denied by Al-Watan.
Saudi Arabia was among the first Arab countries to sever its relations with Syria and voice its support for the 2011 upraising. Later, the Kingdom played a key role in financing and arming Syrian rebels.
Al-Watan’s sources said that Syria and Saudi Arabia were working on rapprochement before Abdullah bin Zayed’s visit to Damascus. According to the sources, head of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Hossam Louka, paid a visit to Riyadh recently. After the visit, Syria lifted an unofficial ban on imports from the kingdom.
“Recent political signals from the capitals of the Gulf states, including the position on the Ukrainian war and the relationship with China, indicate that these capitals have begun to break what was previously considered American red lines and adopt policies based primarily on their political interests, and therefore seeking to return to warm relations with Damascus may be one of the present headlines, which are ultimately in the interest of these countries in the first place,” the newspaper’s report reads.
Saudi Arabia has been working to adopt a more pragmatic stance on Syria, despite pressure from the United States. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Riyadh foreign minister said that countries in the Middle East should work together to find a “political solution” to the country’s ongoing 12-year civil war.
“We are working with our partners to figure out a way to engage with the government in Damascus in a way that delivers tangible movements toward a political resolution,” Faisal bin Farhan said. “That’s going to take some work.”
A rapprochement with Saudi Arabia could open the door for Syria to restore its position in the Arab World. It may also provide some solutions to the country’s economic crisis.
From its side, Riyadh is likely hoping to limit Iran’s influence in Syria and neighboring countries, namely Lebanon and Iraq, by restoring relations with Damascus.
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