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His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad Image Credit: WAM

The landmark visit by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to the UAE on Friday, his first to an Arab country, in more than 11 years, carries a great significance at this critical juncture for the Arab world.

The visit and his meetings with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, underscores the UAE’s policy of reaching out to other Arab countries to enhance regional cooperation and achieve much needed stability in a region prone to volatility and plagued by conflict for the past decade.

Syria is a key pillar of the Arab security system, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed said during the talks with the visiting Syrian president. Both UAE leaders emphasised the need to strengthen cooperation with Syria, which has been ravaged by civil war since 2011.

The visit comes as part of the initiative by UAE and other key Arab states to restore the all-important Arab role in Syria, and follows the reopening of the UAE embassy in Damascus in late 2018. Three years, later, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation visited Damascus on November 9, 2021 and met with President Al Assad as part of the efforts to restore Arab ties with Syria.

Dialogue and constructive engagement 

After more than a decade of civil strife in Syria, the UAE believes there is an urgent and crucial need to strengthen the Arab role in that country, a role based on open dialogue and constructive engagement to resolve the ongoing conflict. There is no other alternative.

Boycotting Syria, a founding member of the Arab League, will not help in bringing about a peaceful solution to the crisis. A strong Arab role, such as the one advocated by the UAE, is also key to preserving Syria’s unity and territorial integrity. The unfortunate absence of such a role in the Syrian crisis has led other non-Arab actors to take the lead in the crisis. They didn’t just fail in restoring stability but many of their actions inflamed the conflict.

A solution in Syria that would help realise the aspiration of its people, preserve its unity and rescue its economy, will only come through an Arab active engagement with the Syrian leadership in support of the ongoing efforts by the United Nations and the Geneva process.

The UAE believes that building bridges of dialogue and collaboration between regional states, such as Friday’s talks with President Al Assad, is key to restoring stability in the Arab world, enhancing economic integration and bringing about prosperity to its deserving people. That is a key UAE foreign policy principle.