Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has met Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai, the Syrian presidency said in a statement, in his first visit to an Arab state since the Syrian war began in 2011.
Assad has also met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the state news agencies of the United Arab Emirates and Syria reported on Friday.
At the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed expressed his hope “this visit would be the beginning of peace and stability for Syria and the entire region.”
The meeting comes days after the 11th anniversary of the beginning of the uprising in Syria, which ultimately has not succeeded in unseating al-Assad.
The meeting between Assad and Al Maktoum “dealt with the overall relations between the two countries and the prospects for expanding the circle of bilateral cooperation, especially at the economic, investment and commercial levels,” Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.
WAM, a UAE news agency, reported that the two leaders discussed “issues of common concern”, such as Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
The visit sends the clearest signal yet that some countries in the Arab world are willing to re-engage with Syria’s once widely shunned president. Several Arab countries are reviving ties with Assad, including Jordan and Lebanon, which have urged the US to ease sanctions on Damascus in order to bolster trade.