DAMASCUS (Dispatches) -- The United Arab Emirates’ top diplomat in Syria has praised President Bashar al-Assad for his "wise leadership”, in one of the strongest expressions of support yet from a country that once backed Damascus’ enemies in the foreign-backed war.
The two restored diplomatic ties last year and the UAE’s vocal support will be welcome by Assad, who has wrested control of most of his country from foreign- backed militants and Takfiri terrorists.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark UAE national day on Dec. 2, UAE charge d’affaires Abdul-Hakim Naimi said he hoped "security and stability prevails throughout the Syrian Arab Republic under the wise leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad.”
"Syria-UAE relations are solid, distinct and strong,” he added, according to a video posted by Russian broadcaster RT.
The UAE has begun to forge closer ties with Damascus. Last December it reopened its embassy there, angering Washington, which has sought to keep Syria isolated.
Washington has lobbied Persian Gulf states including the UAE to hold off restoring ties, sources told Reuters earlier this year.
At the ceremony, Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Maqdad thanked the UAE for its support. "We cannot forget that the United Arab Emirates stood by Syria in its war against terrorism,” he said.
Earlier in the war UAE supported armed groups opposed to Assad. But its role was less prominent than that of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The United Arab Emirates has already reviewed its policies with regard to Iran which is a close ally of Syria and the Saudi war on Yemen.
(Continued on Page 7)The UAE broke with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia by not naming Iran as the culprit behind suspicious attacks in May and June on oil tankers as they sailed toward the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s foremost oil shipping chokepoint.
It sent coast guard officials to Iran for the first time in six years and President Hassan Rouhani hinted at other meetings with senior UAE officials. "We’re moving toward improved relations,” he said Oct. 14.
Spooked by the prospect of a wider catastrophic conflict in the region, Persian Gulf monarchies are in the midst of a strategic rethink, American news provider Bloomberg said on Monday.
"The UAE, whose economic model relies in large part on its international links, quickly realized it had most to lose from a military escalation. It had removed most of its troops from Yemen by the end of a turbulent summer that saw oil tankers targeted and a U.S. drone downed in the Persian Gulf without significant American response,” it said.
According to Bloomberg, there’s an increasing recognition among the Persian Gulf Arab states that no one stands to gain from a military escalation in the world’s top oil-exporting region.
In a Nov. 10 speech, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said he saw "a path to a deal with Iran that all parties might soon” be ready to embark on if Tehran demonstrated commitment.