Assad thanks UAE for 'huge' aid after quake: Syrian presidency

Assad thanks UAE for 'huge' aid after quake: Syrian presidency
Syria's Bashar al-Assad thanked the UAE for humanitarian aid following last week's devastating earthquake.
3 min read
13 February, 2023
The UAE pledged some $13.6 million to Syria after the earthquake before announcing another $50 million in assistance [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday thanked the United Arab Emirates for its emergency response and tens of millions pledged in aid to the quake-hit country, the presidency said.

"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.

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.

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.

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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.