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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

Syria opposition urges Arab states not to mend ties with Assad

President's rivals are watching in dismay as his government looks to restore relations at home and abroad

A man walks past a banner depicting Syrian president Bashar Assad in Douma. Reuters
A man walks past a banner depicting Syrian president Bashar Assad in Douma. Reuters

Syria’s opposition leader Nasr Al Hariri urged Arab leaders not to rebuild relations with President Bashar Al Assad’s government, as the Arab League considers bringing the country back into the Arab fold.

Having restricted diplomatic ties for years, the League believes that having the country as a member will promote greater dialogue and strengthen the influence of Arab nations in Damascus.

“We are surprised that our brothers are reaching out and building relations with this regime,” Mr Al Hariri said in Riyadh, where he lives in exile.

“We hope that our brothers, the leaders of Arab nations, will not abandon the Syrian people.”

Several Arab states are seeking to restore relations with Mr Al Assad to have a say in guiding the country through its next phase. The UAE last month reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital and Bahrain has followed suit.

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At the time of the reopening, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Twitter that an Arab role in Syria had become necessary to battle the growing influence of Turkey and Iran.

“The UAE is working to activate this role through its presence in Damascus,” Dr Gargash said, adding that it also hoped to contribute to a political solution to the war.

Days before the UAE reopened its embassy, Sudan’s president made the first visit by an Arab leader to Damascus since the start of the conflict.

With backing from Russia and Iran, the government now controls almost two thirds of the country.

Efforts to bring Mr Al Assad’s regime back into fold are likely to intensify in the run-up to the next Arab League summit, in Tunis in March.

Beginning as protests against the Assad government in 2011, the conflict has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

The Assad regime appears to be stronger than ever, despite the fighting and continual diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful transition in the country.

Updated: January 7, 2019 05:31 PM

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