FILE - In this file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA Dec. 16, 2018, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Sudan’s President Omar Bashir in Damascus, Syria. Syria said the United Arab Emirates will reopen its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, for the first time in seven years, a reflection of improved relations between President Bashar Assad and some of his Arab foes as the war winds down. Bashir became the first Arab head of state to visit Syria since the start of the war. (SANA via AP, File)

UAE reopens its embassy in Damascus, another sign Assad has won Syria’s civil war

BEIRUT —The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, marking the first official acknowledgment by regional adversaries of Syrian President Bashar Assad that he has won the almost eight-year civil war to dislodge him.

The embassy was shuttered in February 2012, almost a year into a crisis that began with Arab Spring-inspired protests against Assad’s rule and metastasized into a bloody sectarian conflict that killed hundreds of thousands, made millions of others refugees and laid waste to vast areas of the country.

A number of Arab states also closed their embassies in the months following Syria’s suspension from the Arab League in November 2011, with leaders calling on Assad to leave power. Others, including Oman and Egypt, kept their diplomatic missions open.

Far from leaving, Assad is now at his strongest since the crisis began. Behind that cold truth is the lure of hundreds of billions of dollars in reconstruction projects needed to rebuild the country.

News crews congregated on the embassy’s street in Damascus’ upscale Abu Remmaneh district on Thursday afternoon (it too had been closed to traffic for more than six years), as diplomatic cars slid to a halt before the gates for officials to attend a ceremony that culminated with the raising of the Emirates flag on the embassy grounds.

“Syria is back to the Arab world and it will return with power,” said UAE Charge d’affaires Abdul Hakim Nuaimi in an interview with Syrian reporters in front of the embassy.

“This is a call to restore relations with Syria and opening the embassies of other Arab nations.”

Later, the UAE Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the embassy had resumed work.

The reopening, the statement continued, confirmed the UAE’s desire to “restore relations between the two brotherly nations to their natural course,” with the aim of boosting Arab states’ role in “supporting the independence and sovereignty of Syria” and to “avoid the risk of regional interventions.”

The ambassador and other staff will be arriving in the first week of the new year, said one Syrian diplomatic official who withheld his name because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

There were also reports that Bahrain’s embassy would reopen next week.

For weeks, cleanup crews had been seen on the embassy’s grounds, fueling rumors that a restoration of relations between the two countries was imminent.

A visit to Damascus earlier this month by Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who has strong ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was also seen as an overture to the Syrian leader. And last week, Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk paid a rare visit to Cairo.

Yet Thursday’s reopening represents a significant victory for Assad, who had fought for years against rebel factions receiving weapons and material support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, to a lesser degree, the UAE.

All three countries were also involved in CIA-led logistics hubs that trained and equipped opposition fighters.

That support has been cut as rebel forces lost ground over the last two years to successive Russian- and Iranian-backed onslaughts, with Assad vowing to regain control over “every inch of Syria.”

He still faces Turkish-controlled militants in the country’s north as well as Kurds in the northeast backed by the U.S.

Kurdish forces, however, are now in peril in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. plans to withdraw its approximately 2,000 troops from Syria and give Turkey a greater role in northern part of the country.

That move has raised fears in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates; both are vying with Turkey for regional influence and want to see Iran ousted from Syria.

“The Arab role in Syria has become more necessary due to Iranian and Turkish transgressions,” tweeted the UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, on Thursday.

But the opening of the UAE Embassy also symbolized an acknowledgment that “Assad and his regime would continue,” said Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based pan-Arab news site Rai Al-Youm.

“It means the Arab revolutions of seven years ago are over,” he said.

———

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

—————

PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): SYRIA-UAE

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whatever snow may possibly fall in Red Deer on the weekend will melt when it hits the warm ground, says meteorologist Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Weather expected to get warmer next week in Red Deer

It’s going to be a cold weekend, according to Environment Canada. Saturday… Continue reading

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

kk
Don’t try to teach a turtle tricks

I got Smokey at Woolworths. Woolworths was an awesome department store downtown,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Most Read