Bashar al-Assad (L) hosts Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Damascus, Syria, February 27, 2023

In a further sign of Arab countries edging towards renewed relations with Syria’s Assad regime, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

The visit is the first by a high-level Egyptian official since the Syrian uprising in March 2011. It follows Sunday’s arrival of Egypt’s Parliament Speaker Hanafy el-Gebaly and a delegation of top Arab lawmakers.

Shoukry emphasized that the purpose of the trip is humanitarian, not political, following the February 6 earthquake across both opposition-held and Assad-controlled territory in northwest Syria as well as throughout southern Turkey.

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However, with Syria fractured for the long term into three areas — Assad-controlled territory, the Kurdish-led northeast, and the opposition-held northwest — some Arab states have been renewing links with the reigme.

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The UAE, which had already established high-level contact, has used the disaster to highlight its role in providing aid while engaging in further discussions. Last week Assad made an official trip to Oman.

The Assad regime is still suspended from the Arab League.