An employee retouches the emblem of the UAE Embassy in Damascus, Syria, December 27, 2018 (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)
The UAE has reopened its Embassy in Damascus, as the Assad regime strives to regain recognition from Arab States.
The UAE, which long backed opposition groups in Syria’s 93-month conflict, raised the flag at the closed Embassy on Thursday. The Foreign Ministry said the charge d’affaires assumed his duties.
The Emirates said the step was to curb risks of regional interference in “Arab, Syrian affairs”. That is a likely reference to Iran, which has propped up the Assad regime since 2011 and is a regional rival of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
It could also cover Turkey: alongside rebels, Ankara controls much of northwest Syria and is promising to take part of Kurdish-held territory in the northeast. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, having blockaded Ankara-linked Qatar, are at odds with Turkey over Iran and the split within the Gulf States.
Analysts also believe the UAE will seek economic gain from the estimated $400 billion in reconstruction projects needed by the regime.
In October, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa greeted Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem at the UN. Earlier this month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was the first Arab leader to visit Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Earlier this week Assad’s security head Ali Mamlouk made an official trip to Egypt, and the leader of Mauritania will reportedly be in Damascus next week.
The Arab League is widely expected to readmit the Assad regime next year after suspending its membership in 2011.
Activists Call for Help to Flooded Displaced Persons Camps
Activists have appealed for help for flooded displaced persons camps in northwest Syria.
Heavy rainfall since Tuesday across Idlib and Aleppo Provinces has flooded tents, forcing out a majority of residents, and raised health concerns. Activists said many thousands are now stranded in the open and waiting for assistance from civil defense teams and humanitarian relief organizations.
A baby reportedly died, hours after birth, in the Hazano camp in northern Idlib from the cold and rainy conditions.
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About three million people — about 20% of the population still in Syria — live in opposition-held territory in the northwest. The area has more than 1,000 camps, including 133 which are unofficial.
White Helmets civil defense said it is mobilizing volunteers to provide help.