Russia and Iran to host summit in Moscow in one of few such meetings in the Syrian conflict
UAE foreign minister meets Assad, in highest-profile Emirati visit to Syria since start of war
The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister has met the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, as part of his first trip to Syria in the 13-year-old conflict.
Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan met Assad on Tuesday and told reporters in Damascus that the Syrian leader “was very much looking forward to the success of the Arab summit in Moscow”, which will be held in mid-September.
“He considers it is a very important summit for the region in general … and Syrians in particular,” he said. “He said he expects the summit to be about deepening the ties of friendship, brotherhood and peace between the Arab countries, especially in light of the crisis in Syria.”
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that Nahyan said in Damascus he had told Assad about the UAE’s efforts to support Arab peace initiatives in various regions of the world, especially in Syria.
Ebrahim al-Jaafari, the state minister for foreign affairs, told reporters that he and Nahyan stressed the importance of work in finding “moderate and peaceful solutions” to the Syria crisis.
Nahyan’s visit to Damascus comes just a few days after a meeting in Moscow between Assad and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who also met the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, on the sidelines of the G20 summit last week.
Saudi Arabia is the only other Arab state to have maintained diplomatic relations with Assad’s government and much of the Gulf Arab world remains opposed to the Syrian leader.
During Nahyan’s visit, Assad met with the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, to discuss his ongoing humanitarian operation.
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Nahyan said he told Assad Syria had developed a sufficient humanitarian operation to fulfil its humanitarian commitments for about 4 million people, and that the pace of this operation has increased and was likely to reach 5 million in July and August.
The UAE, along with Egypt, took an active role in creating a regional “rebels” alliance from Qatar to Turkey and in providing funds and troops. It has supported the establishment of an armed group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which expelled the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham from the group’s southern stronghold.
Nahyan said in June that the UAE had raised $1bn (£710m) in funding for the international relief effort in Syria, and added that Egypt had signed contracts for the purchase of equipment and weapons worth $3bn.