Assad thanks UAE for 'huge' aid after quake: Syrian presidency
"The UAE was among the first countries that stood with Syria and sent huge relief and humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams," Assad said during a meeting in Damascus with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Nahyan arrived in Syria on Sunday, six days after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 35,000 people in total.
The minister also toured quake-hit areas in western Syria, according to UAE's official news agency WAM.
We walk the talk ! 🙏🏼🇦🇪🇸🇾— حسن سجواني 🇦🇪 Hassan Sajwani (@HSajwanization) February 12, 2023
UAE FM HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Syria with Syria President Bashar Al Assad - Syrian Presidency. pic.twitter.com/ZNNM61VUMV
A Syrian pro-regime newspaper shared images of the Emirati minister in the coastal city of Jableh, among the worst hit by the quake and where Emirati search and rescue team have been based since Friday.
His visit is the first by a senior Gulf official since the 7.8-magnitude quake hit.
Nahyan said the UAE remains "committed to standing by the brotherly people of Syria and providing the required support and assistance," according to WAM.
The UAE minister last visited Damascus in January, when he also met Assad, on a trip that signalled warming ties with war-torn Syria after years of strained relations.
The UAE pledged some $13.6 million to Syria after the disaster before announcing another $50 million in assistance.
NEW -- #UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed is, again, visiting Bashar al-#Assad in #Damascus.— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) February 12, 2023
Since the earthquake, the #UAE has attempted to use #Syria's need for additional aid as a mechanism for international re-engagement with #Assad's regime.
The oil-rich Gulf nation has dispatched planes to Turkey and Syria with emergency aid, food, medical supplies and rescue teams.
"Sixteen Emirati planes have arrived in Syria since the earthquake hit," said Suleiman Khalil, an official at Syria's transport ministry.
"Around the clock, Emirati planes have been providing an air bridge for those affected by the earthquake."
In Jableh, rescue teams have worked at several locations, scouring the rubble for survivors and remains of the dead.
Ties between Damascus and Abu Dhabi were strained after the Syrian civil war broke out more than a decade ago. Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League over the bloodshed.
The UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital in December 2018, suggesting an effort to bring Assad's regime back into the Arab fold after years of boycott.
Last March, Assad made a visit to the UAE, his first to an Arab state in more than a decade.
Since Monday's disaster, Arab leaders have reached out to the long politically isolated Assad to offer support for the Syrian people and pledge aid.
The Syrian president received a call from his Egyptian counterpart offering support, their first official exchange since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed office in 2014.
Similarly, the ruler of Bahrain, which re-established diplomatic relations with Syria in 2018, called Assad on Monday, their first official conversation in more than a decade.