Syria's COP28 delegation to be led by PM, not Assad, member says

Syria's COP28 delegation to be led by PM, not Assad, member says
The Syrian delegation attending the COP28 summit in the UAE will be headed by the regime's prime minister. It is not clear if President Bashar al-Assad will attend.
2 min read
28 November, 2023
The invitation to attend the climate summit was extended to Assad (L) last spring by his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed [Getty]

Syria's delegation to the United Nations climate summit in Dubai will be headed by its prime minister, a delegate said, without specifying whether President Bashar al-Assad would eventually pay a visit to the COP28 gathering.

Assad was invited by the United Arab Emirates in May, as Arab states warmed up to Damascus following a decade of isolation stemming from his regime's brutal crackdown on protests against him.

Those demonstrations spiralled into a full-scale war which drew in foreign intervention. The conflict has displaced millions, gutted the country's infrastructure and sank Syria into a devastating economic crisis deepened by sanctions.

Syria's agriculture industry has been hit hard by those factors. Last year, its wheat harvest amounted to around 1 million tonnes, down some 75% from pre-crisis volumes.

The invitation to attend the climate summit was extended last spring by United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. A COP28 spokesperson told Reuters at the time that an inclusive process could "only happen if we have everyone in the room."

But a member of the Syrian delegation told Reuters that Prime Minister Hussein Arnous would lead the ministerial delegation and would focus on drumming up funding for climate projects in his war-ravaged country.

"We will present the climate situation in Syria to several parties and organisations. Our primary goal will be to bring in funding," said Manhal al-Zoaby, who heads the natural resources department at the agriculture ministry and who will also attend.

Zoaby said Syria would seek to "attract projects and funding to implement important climate adaptation activities in Syria." Zoaby did not say whether Assad would take part.

The UAE once backed some anti-Assad insurgents. But Abu Dhabi has led the way in bringing Assad back into the Arab fold after he had driven back rebel fighters across most of Syria, aided by Russia and Iran.