UAE reopens embassy in Syria

Dubai, Dec 27 (IANS): The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reopened its embassy in Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said, in a major step towards welcoming Bashar al-Assad back into the fold of Arab leaders after years of estrangement.

The embassy had been closed since the eruption of the Syrian crisis in 2011. Syria was suspended from the Arab League shortly after the war broke out and most Arab states closed their embassies in Damascus in protest at Assad's violent crackdown on the opposition.

"The acting ambassador has started his work at the headquarters of the embassy as of Thursday," the UAE Ministry said in a statement cited by state-run WAM news agency, adding that the move confirmed the UAE's keenness to restore the relations between the two "brotherly countries" to its normal path.

"The UAE decisions will promote the Arab role in boosting independence and sovereignty of Syria, unity of lands and regional safety of the country against challenges," said the statement.

The UAE looks forward to seeing peace, security and stability prevail in Syria, it added.

As it has become increasingly clear that Assad is likely to stay in power, Syria's Arab neighbours have begun moving to restore diplomatic ties with him.

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.

The border crossing between Syria and Jordan was reopened in October.