UAE invites Assad to COP28 summit: Syrian regime media

UAE invites Assad to COP28 summit: Syrian regime media
3 min read
The UAE has invited Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to attend COP28 later this year in Dubai amid his continued rehabilitation by the Arab League
Assad visited the Emirates in March this year [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates has invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend the United Nations climate summit in Dubai later this year, Syrian regime media said Monday.

Assad's first invitation to a global summit since the start of Syria's conflict in 2011 comes as the Arab world gradually warms to Damascus after a long spell in the diplomatic wilderness.

The Emirati charge d'affaires in Syria, Abdul Hakeem al-Nuaimi, has handed Assad an invitation from UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan "to attend the COP28 climate conference", official news agency SANA reported.

Heads of Western states who have imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime over its atrocities in the conflict and oppose normalisation with Damascus usually attend the COP summits.

US President Joe Biden and France's Emmanuel Macron were among those who attended last year's talks in Egypt.

Since Syria's war broke out, Assad has held onto power and clawed back territory once held by rebel groups with crucial support from Iran and Russia.

This month, the Arab League welcomed back Damascus after it was suspended for more than a decade over its brutal crackdown on protests which spiralled into a conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions.

Assad has received an invitation to an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia scheduled for Friday.

The UAE re-established ties with Syria in 2018 and has been leading the recent charge to reintegrate Damascus into the Arab fold.

In March last year, Assad visited the UAE on his first official trip to an Arab country since the war erupted in 2011, and visited again this year.

Regional engagement with Damascus picked up after a deadly earthquake struck Syria and Turkey on February 6, followed by a landmark rapprochement in March between Saudi Arabia and Assad ally Iran.

Despite the regional detente, Assad remains internationally isolated.

The United States and Britain said last week they still opposed direct ties with Damascus.

"We are not going to be in the business of normalising relations with Assad and with that regime," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, speaking alongside Blinken, said London was "very uncomfortable" with the Arab League decision.