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Qatar's foreign minister sees no need to re-open embassy in Syria

Syria's membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over the government's violent response to peaceful protests
Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (AFP)

Qatar's foreign minister said on Monday that he saw no need to re-open his country's embassy in the capital Damascus, nor any encouraging signs for a normalisation of ties with the Syrian government.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani also said that Qatar still objects to Arab League membership for Syria.

"Since day one Qatar had reasons for which it supported suspending [Arab League] membership and those reasons are still there, so we do not see any encouraging factor," Thani said at a news conference.

Syria's membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over the government's violent response to peaceful protests at the start of the Syrian uprising, which turned into an almost eight-year civil war.

Some Arab states, including some that once backed Syrian opposition fighters against President Bashar al-Assad, are seeking to reconcile with him after decisive gains by his and allied forces in the war.

In December, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus. The UAE's embassy had been shut since the Gulf country broke ties with Syria in February 2012.

Nearly seven years later, the Emirati flag was raised again during a ceremony attended by diplomats and journalists. 

Bahrain also has announced in December that "work is continuing" at its embassy in Damascus, just hours after the UAE reopened its mission in the Syrian capital.

Meanwhile, Damascus is apparently revoking the residencies of a number of western diplomats in an attempt to pressure their countries into re-opening embassies in Syria, according to Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Some European countries, too, are said to be considering reopening their diplomatic missions, particularly Italy.

"We are working to assess if and when," Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said on Friday.

In an effort aimed at “pressing for the reopening of embassies and diplomatic relations with Syria”, Damascus told western diplomats their residencies had been revoked, Asharq al-Awsat reported. Many live between the Syrian capital and Beirut.

Some diplomats told the Saudi paper that such a move could hinder UN aid reaching the country.