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Cop28: Syria's Assad 'received invitation' from UAE to attend climate conference

Syrian state news agency says Emirati diplomat offered invitation to climate conference on Sunday
'Cop28 UAE' logo is displayed on the screen during the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, 16 January 2023 (Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has received an official invitation from the president of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to attend the UN Climate Conference (Cop28) in Dubai, according to the Syrian official news agency (SANA).

Assad on Sunday received Abdul-Hakeem Ebraheem al-Nuaimi, the UAE's charge d’affaires in Damascus, who handed him an official invitation to attend the conference, due to be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, Sana reported on Monday. 

The invitation comes following a decision by Arab League foreign ministers earlier this month to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension, consolidating a regional push to normalise ties with Assad.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Assad could attend an Arab League summit scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia later this month "if he wishes to".

The Syrian government became an international pariah when it violently cracked down on protests in 2011, sparking a civil war that continues today. At least half a million lives are estimated to have been lost in the conflict, and half of Syria's population has been displaced.

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However, in recent years, many Arab countries, including regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have resumed ties with Damascus.

But others, including Qatar, have remained opposed to full normalisation without a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

In January, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed met with Assad in Damascus where they discussed boosting economic ties. 

The UAE's top diplomat first visited Syria in November 2021, paving the way for Assad’s historic trip to the UAE in March 2022, his first to an Arab country since the outbreak of Syria’s war a decade ago.

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