DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – Just weeks after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in the presidential election, some smaller European countries are tentatively warming their relations with Damascus.
Cyprus is moving into a new embassy in Damascus, while Serbia is to send an ambassador — the first time it has replaced a top diplomat since foreign-backed war broke out 10 years ago.
These are small steps and EU member states, especially its juggernauts France and Germany, are unlikely to follow any time soon, but the moves make clear the challenge the bloc will face as the situation in Syria normalizes over time.
Moves by fringe states are “weakening the EU position, and the Syrian government knows perfectly how to play with that”, said Laure Foucher, senior analyst at Crisis Group who focuses on Europe and the MENA region.
With President Assad repelling the terrorists across the war-battered country, smaller countries want direct channels with Damascus, mostly for pragmatic reasons.
Athens sent a new chargé d’affaires to Damascus last year. “Greece is interested in being present in a country where developments affect our national interests [such] as the migration crisis,” said Nikolaos Protonotarios.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed terrorism since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Zionist regime and its Western and regional allies have been aiding the terrorist groups that were wreaking havoc in the Arab country.
The Czech Republic was the only EU member country not to withdraw from Syria after the eruption of the conflict.
Russia, which has been helping Syrian forces in the ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued Arab country, has stressed that intensified efforts are underway to restore normal life to the liberated areas in the Arab country.
Some Arab states have also been seeking reconciliation with Damascus since the government forces gained the upper hand against the foreign-backed terrorists.
In 2018, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates reopened embassies, which had been closed soon after anti-government militancy began in Syria in 2011.
Oman reinstated its ambassador to Syria last October, becoming the first Persian Gulf Arab state to do so.