United Arab Emirates becomes highest-profile foreign minister visit to Syria

This article is over 10 months old Abu Dhabi does not seek confrontation with Gulf neighbours over Syria and strives for support from others for reforms in kingdom Abu Dhabi, the capital of the…

United Arab Emirates becomes highest-profile foreign minister visit to Syria

This article is over 10 months old

Abu Dhabi does not seek confrontation with Gulf neighbours over Syria and strives for support from others for reforms in kingdom

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, today became the highest-profile foreign minister visit to Syria in the nearly six-year-old civil war.

The UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who led the UAE delegation, said in Damascus on Monday that his country’s focus remained on supporting Syrian rebels rather than increasing its involvement in the war.

“There is no confrontation in our approach with our Gulf neighbours. Our aim is to seek the best ways to support the aspirations of our people, for political reform,” Sheikh Abdullah said in remarks carried by the Syrian state news agency SANA.

“Our aim is to work with our Gulf neighbours and other countries in a new government for Syria, which is on the way to finding a resolution and reconstruction.”

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could look to the UAE for help in forming a new government as he seeks to consolidate his power by negotiating with a wide range of rebel groups and restore control over the country.

The Saudi Arabia-based Arab League has struggled to broker a political solution to the war, and two attempts to convene a conference on Syria earlier this year collapsed over disagreements on the composition of the Syrian government and rebel delegations.

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The uprising began in March 2011 and the war has since killed about 320,000 people, according to the United Nations.

All Sunni Gulf Arab states have supported the insurgency against Assad. The UAE has designated the Syrian opposition as a terrorist organisation.

During his five-day visit, Sheikh Abdullah met the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, and the country’s state chief of staff, Major General Soleiman al-Shara.

The visit comes after a key ally of the UAE, Turkey, is seeking better ties with Assad and Saudi Arabia, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, has revived efforts to bring together Saudi, Syrian and Iranian-backed opposition groups to bring about peace talks.

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