Date :Saturday, December 29th, 2018 | Time : 14:01 |ID: 81976 | Print

Arab states diplomatic thaw comes after the US Withdrawal from Syria

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SHAFAQNA | By Leila Yazdani : The move by Bahrain to reopen its embassy came hours after the United Arab Emirates’ decision to reopen its embassy in Damascus. This move reflects a new push by Persian Gulf Arab states to improve relations with President Bashar Assad as the war winds down. The diplomatic thaw comes after the U.S. plans to pull its troops from Syria and Arab countries have expressed concern about a growing role for Iran and Turkey.

The concerted pronouncements come seven years after several Arab states recalled their ambassadors and shuttered their embassies in Syria to isolate Assad.

Bahrain announced early on Friday that it is reopening its embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus. The move follows a seven-year hiatus, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website. Bahrain was one of several regional Arab states that had backed opposition forces in the Syrian conflict. Bahrain decided to shut down its embassy in Damascus and to withdraw all diplomats and staff on March 15, 2012.

Noting the keenness of Bahrain on the continuation of relations with Syria, the ministry said the Syrian regime’s embassy in Bahrain’s capital of Manama will also be operational and flights between the two countries are set to resume, trtworld reported. Bahrain is home to a majority Shiite population and there are direct flights from Manama to Damascus, which is home to Shiite pilgrimage sites.

In a statement issued Friday, the ministry emphasised “the Arab role” in preserving Syria’s independence.

The statement did not give details on whether an ambassador would be reinstated to Damascus nor give details on Bahrain’s diplomatic presence in Syria.

In October, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa was seen warmly greeting his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Khalifa later defended the meeting in an interview, saying it was unplanned and calling Syria a “brotherly, Arab nation”.

“What happens there concerns us more than anywhere else in the world. It is not right that regional and international players are involved in Syria while we are absent,” Khalifa said, aljazeera reported.

The UAE started its trade with Syria

A day earlier, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus with a flag-raising ceremony before journalists and camera crews.

The UAE also announced it has officially started its trade with Syria, sending its first cargo through Lebanon and Nasib border crossing into Syria. According to the Emirati newspaper Al-Bayan, the Arab country dispatched the first cargo in the form of three trucks containing dry and frozen commodities.

The report also said the Dubai Ports company seeks to create a 2,500km crossing between Dubai free zone and Nasib-Jaber border crossing between Syria and Jordan in order to facilitate trade relations, press tv told.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011

Syria was suspended from the 22-member Arab League in November 2011, as the death toll of a crackdown on anti-regime protesters was escalating. Arab countries sanctioned Damascus and condemned its use of military force against civilians, according to nytimes. Arab states had also recalled their ambassadors and shuttered their embassies in Syria to isolate Assad in 2011.

Diplomatic activity set to continue until the next summit of the Arab League

Earlier this month, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir became the first Arab head of state to visit Damascus since the start of the Syrian conflict, flying into Damascus airport.

The border crossing between Syria and Jordan, another US-ally that backed the opposition forces, was reopened in October.

Direct flights between Syria and Tunisia also resumed on Thursday for the first time in seven years, as a Syrian passenger flight operated by Cham Wings Airlines arrived at Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport, alaraby mentioned.

The past few days have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity that looks set to continue until the next summit of the Arab League, due in Tunis in March. There are also talks of Syria’s membership in the Arab League, which was suspended seven years ago.

In October, Assad told a little-known Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a “major understanding” with Arab states after years of hostility. He said that Western delegations had begun visiting Syria to prepare for reopening of diplomatic and other missions.

An Arab diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters last week that he believed a majority wanted Syria to return to the League – with only three or four states expected to oppose this – but there had been no official proposal yet.

Persian Gulf states concern about a growing role for Iran and Turkey

The diplomatic thaw comes after the U.S. announced plans to pull its troops from Syria. Arab states have expressed concern about a growing role for Iran and Turkey in the future of Syria.

“An Arab role in Syria has become even more necessary to face the regional expansionism of Iran and Turkey,” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said on Twitter following the embassy reopening.

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