UK government rebukes Man City owner Sheikh Mansour over Assad meeting

UK government rebukes Man City owner Sheikh Mansour over Assad meeting
The UK government has criticised Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the UAE last week.
2 min read
22 March, 2022
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed (centre) met Bashar al-Assad in the UAE [Getty]

The UK government has strongly criticised Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the owner of Manchester City Football Club, for meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad last week.

Sheikh Mansour, who is also the UAE's deputy prime minister, met the Syrian dictator during the latter's recent visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The UK, which has broken relations with the Syrian regime, slammed the meeting with Assad who is accused of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

"It is the UK’s firm belief that - in the absence of a change in behaviour by the Syrian regime - strengthening ties undermines the prospect of a lasting and inclusive peace in Syria," a spokesperson for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office told The Athletic.

Assad's regime brutally suppressed peaceful pro-democracy protests which broke out in Syria in 2011, leading to the current Syrian conflict.

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More than 500,000 people have been killed since then, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

Last year, leading US lawyer Stephen Rapp said that there was more evidence that Bashar al-Assad had committed war crimes than there was against the Nazis.

Jonathan Hargreaves, the UK's special representative on Syria, posted on Twitter: " After 11 years of conflict Assad's unreformed and unrepentant regime continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people.

"Without changes in behaviour, engagement only serves to undermine collective efforts to encourage Assad to participate in the UN-facilitated political process in good faith."

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, was more vocal in his criticism.

"What is it that people don't get? There’s been a form of barbarous, sustained murder going on in Syria, run jointly by Assad, and now Putin is doing exactly the same in a barbaric war of aggression against innocent sovereign Ukraine.

"And some people want to meet up with the bully boys?" he told The Daily Telegraph.

Bryant asked whether Mansour was a "fit and proper person to be owning a football club", saying it would be "good to see the back of him".

The Assad regime has relied on military support from Russia to stay in power and expressed support for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The UAE recently abstained from condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council.

The UAE - like most other Arab states - broke off ties with the Assad regime in 2012 following the suppression of protests but officially re-established them in 2018.