The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reopened Thursday their embassy in Damascus, a diplomatic victory for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, because this Gulf country allied with the United States has once supported some armed rebel groups at war against Damascus.
According to the UAE, this measure aims to normalize bilateral relations and to avoid regional interference in “Syrian Arab affairs” – which seems to be an allusion to Iran, a country outside the Arab world whose support for Assad has been crucial. .
The UAE flag was hoisted to the embassy, which was closed in the first months of the insurgency in 2011. The UAE’s chargé d’affaires took office immediately.
Robert Ford, who was the US ambassador to Syria when the anti-Assad uprising broke out, said the reopening of the UAE embassy was a sign that the Sunni Gulf monarchy intended to again exert influence in Syria to alleviate that of Shiite Iran.
“I think they hope that over time, by making a new financial and diplomatic commitment to Damascus, they will be able to reduce Iran’s influence,” said Robert Ford, who teaches at Yale University and cooperates with the Middle East Institute.
The UAE was one of the countries in the region that supported some rebel groups, but they played a smaller role than Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey.
Nearly eight years after the beginning of the conflict, the Syrian president recovered most of Syria with the decisive support of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah.
This month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was the first Arab head of state to visit Damascus since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
Syria was excluded from the Arab League in 2011, at the beginning of the civil war. Questioned in April by the newspaper Al Baïan, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary general of the organization, held that the suspension had been “very hasty”. The parliament set up by the League has recently voted for its reinstatement.
An Arab diplomat told Reuters last week, under the seal of anonymity, that in his opinion most Arab countries wanted Syrian reinstatement in the Arab League. According to him, only three or four states are opposed to it.