Tag Archives: Assad

UAE re-opens embassy in Syria as Arab leaders begin to welcome Assad back from the cold

UAE re-opens embassy in Syria as Arab leaders begin to welcome Assad back from the coldThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) has re-opened its embassy in Syria, taking a major public step towards welcoming Bashar al-Assad back into the fold of Arab leaders after years of estrangement.   Syria was suspended from the Arab League shortly after the Syrian war broke out in 2011 and most Arab states closed their embassies in Damascus in protest at Assad’s violent crackdown against the opposition.  However, as it has becoming increasingly clear that Assad is likely to stay in power and prevail over downtrodden rebel forces, Syria’s Arab neighbours have begun moving to restore diplomatic ties with the former pariah.   The re-opening of the UAE’s embassy in Damascus is the most significant public step so far towards Assad’s rehabilitation in the Arab world. The move is likely to have been coordinated with Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s more powerful neighbour and close ally.  Syria state media reported that Bahrain may re-open its own embassy in Damascus next week.  One complicating factor is the role of Iran, which has strongly supported the Syrian regime throughout the seven-year war but is considered a major enemy by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies. Pictures circulating on social media purportedly showing the (defunct) UAE Embassy in Damascus being renovated ahead of a potential resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries #Syria#UAEpic.twitter.com/5cdwC9nwx6— Michael A. Horowitz (@michaelh992) December 26, 2018 In a statement, the UAE presented the embassy re-opening as a part of an effort to bring Syria back into the orbit of its fellow Arab states as opposed to its Persian Iranian allies.   The UAE said said it was keen to “restore relations between the two brotherly countries to their normal course” and wanted to enhance “the Arab role” in supporting Syria’s independence and sovereignty.  “This move will also prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian affairs,” the UAE foreign ministry said, in a veiled reference to Iran’s role in Syria.   The UAE helped finance some anti-Assad rebels in the early stages of the the war but played a smaller role than Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey. Much of the Gulf funding for rebel groups has now dried up.  Jalel Harchaoui, a lecturer in geopolitics at Versailles university, said both the UAE and Egypt had grown sceptical about overthrowing Assad because they saw him as a bulwark against their shared Islamist enemies. “As Assad’s survival in Damascus is now an indisputable fact of life, and as the West’s 2012 bet appears as a miserable failure, the ideological stance of the UAE and Egypt is being largely vindicated. Both states will now lead the campaign consisting in having the rest of the Arab world embrace that reality,” he said.  Omar Bashir, the president of Sudan, this month became the first Arab leader to travel to Damascus since 2011. His visit was hailed by regime media as sign that Syria was being welcomed back in from the cold.  There also appears to be increasing momentum for Syria to be re-admitted into the Arab League. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian who serves as the League’s secretary general, said earlier this year that Syria’s suspension had been hasty. The next meeting of the Arab League will take place in Tunisia in March. Thursday also saw the first commercial flight from Damascus to Tunisia since 2011. "This trip is the reopening of tourism links between Syria and Tunisia," said Moataz Tarbin, the head of the tourism firm that organised the flight. Syrian state media said earlier this week that Major General Ali Mamlouk, one of Assad’s top security officials, had visited Cairo to discuss terrorism issues with his Egyptian counterparts.  The UAE’s charge d’affaires at the embassy resumed work on Thursday as the UAE’s red, black, and green flag was hoisted for the first time in seven years. Syria regime media showed last-minute construction work to restore the UAE’s state seal on the embassy’s outer wall.  “The UAE expressed its wish that peace, security and stability would prevail throughout Syria,” the foreign ministry said. 



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Let down by U.S., Syrian Kurdish leaders look to Russia and Assad

Let down by U.S., Syrian Kurdish leaders look to Russia and AssadU.S. forces are still deployed and Trump says the pullout will be slow – Kurdish officials are scrambling for a strategy to protect their region from Turkey before the United States leaves. Talks with Damascus and Moscow appear to be the focus for the Kurdish leadership.



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Abandoned by US, Syrian Kurds request help from Assad regime

Abandoned by US, Syrian Kurds request help from Assad regimeKurdish Syrian forces have asked the Syrian government for protection against a Turkish attack in a flashpoint town, triggered by a shock US decision to withdraw forces from the country which left them exposed. Syrian troops erected the national flag in the outskirts of Manbij - the first time it has flown in the northern town for more than six years. “The aim is to ward off a Turkish offensive,” said Ilham Ahmed, a senior Kurdish official. “If the Turks’ excuse is the (Kurdish militia), they will leave their posts to the government.” A statement released earlier by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said they had invited government forces to the town, as they are “obliged to protect the same country, nation and borders." Kurdish YPG fighters still based there are part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance battling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). The town has been governed for the last two years by the Manbij Military Council, which is allied to the SDF. A convoy of American Special Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters makes a stop during a patrol near the Turkish border in northern Syria on November 4, 2018. Credit: Sam Tarling for the Telegraph It is the first major concession by the Kurds to the Bashar al-Assad regime since the YPG seized control of vast swathes of north and east Syria and created an area of self-rule and one which analysts called a major turning point. Until last week the YPG had the support of the US, which had helped them stave off a threatened offensive by Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and hold territory wanted by the Syrian regime. A number of Syrian troops arrived in the area early Friday morning and deployed between YPG and Turkish-backed forces west of Manbij.  A Syrian army spokesman said in a televised statement that all Syrians must “join efforts to preserve national sovereignty” and “defeat all invaders”, with reference to Turkey. The US-backed coalition had a number of special forces stationed in the city, where they have a base. It is understood they will withdraw in the next few days. Men queue up to buy bread outside a bakery on the outskirts of Qamishli in northern Syria,  Credit: Sam Tarling for the Telegraph It is unclear of local residents will react to regime forces returning to the city. "No one knows what to think as the regime has not yet arrived," one resident of Manbij, who declined to be named, told the Telegraph. "Anyone with any connection to the revolution will probably try to leave soon, maybe for areas controlled by Turkey in the Euphrates Shield." The town of some 100,000 people fell to moderate rebel fighters in the summer of 2012 before it was overrun by Isil jihadists in 2014. It was then captured by SDF in an anti-Isil offensive in 2016. The Kurds have used the cover of the war to carve out an autonomous state in northeastern Syria. However, their project seems increasingly under threat as Assad’s regime looks to reclaim the whole of Syria. Kurdish officials have told The Telegraph they would rather try their luck in negotiations with the regime than risk an all-out assault from neighbouring Turkey, which considers the YPG a terrorist group and has watched Kurdish expansion with growing concern. “The YPG accepts drinking the poison to stop a massacre. Do you prefer your people to be massacred by a brutal dictator like (Turkish president Recep Tayyip) Erdogan or be protected by a brutal dictator like Assad?” tweeted Kamal Chomani, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa during the offensive against Isil Credit: Reuters Russia, which has long called for the withdrawal of US troops “illegally” in Syria, welcomed the news on Friday, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing the development as a "positive step" that could help "stabilise the situation." Speaking in frank terms on Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, today said the US president “makes a speciality of talking in very black and white terms about what's happening in the world.” "We have made massive progress in the war against Daesh (Arabic acronym for Isil), but it's not over and, although they have lost nearly all the territory they held, they still hold some territory and there is still some real risk," Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. During a visit to Iraq this week, Mr Trump declared an end to the US role of being the world's "policeman". Arab leaders have in recent days taken steps to rehabilitate the brutal Assad regime, with the UAE and Bahrain announcing they are to reopen embassies that had been shut since the beginning of the civil war.



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UAE reopens Syria embassy in boost for Assad

UAE reopens Syria embassy in boost for AssadDAMASCUS/DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, marking a diplomatic boost for President Bashar al-Assad from a U.S.-allied Arab state that once backed rebels fighting him. The UAE said the move aimed to normalize ties and to curb risks of regional interference in “Arab, Syrian affairs” – an apparent reference to non-Arab Iran, whose support for Assad has been critical to his war effort. “The UAE decision … came after a conviction that the next stage requires the Arab presence and communication in the Syrian file,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs.



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Why Idlib matters and the obstacles Assad faces there

Why Idlib matters and the obstacles Assad faces thereThe Syrian conflict has turned toward the northwestern Idlib region, where government preparations for a Russian-backed offensive have sparked a concerted Turkish diplomatic bid to prevent an attack. A major assault in Idlib, home to some three million people, could be more deadly and destructive than any other in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people since 2011. The U.N. is warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.



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Defying dangers, Idlib residents protest Syria's Assad

Defying dangers, Idlib residents protest Syria's AssadBEIRUT (AP) — In cities and towns across Syria's last opposition-held province, Idlib, residents poured into the streets on Friday to demonstrate against President Bashar Assad's government in defiance of an expected offensive to retake the territory.



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US warnings ring hollow as it braces for Assad victory, say experts

US warnings ring hollow as it braces for Assad victory, say expertsThe United States appears resigned to the likelihood of a final military victory by Syrian government forces, even as it warns Bashar al-Assad and Moscow against launching a major offensive in the rebel-held northwest, analysts say. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday accused his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov of “defending” the expected assault by Russian-backed Syrian forces on Idlib province, scene of the last rebel stronghold and home to nearly three million people. “The US sees this as an escalation of an already dangerous conflict,” Pompeo said on Twitter.



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Assad presses assault in southwest Syria, civilians flee

Assad presses assault in southwest Syria, civilians fleeBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government forces pounded rebel-held areas of the southwest with artillery on Thursday, in a steady escalation by President Bashar al-Assad who has vowed to win back the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12,500 civilians had fled the town of Busra al-Hariri and nearby areas of Deraa province in the last two days. The United States has warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to government violations of a “de-escalation” deal it brokered with Russia last year to contain the conflict in the southwest.



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Assad raises prospect of clashes with U.S. forces in Syria

Assad raises prospect of clashes with U.S. forces in SyriaBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad raised the possibility of conflict with U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon. In an interview with Russia’s RT international broadcaster, Assad said he would negotiate with fighters backed on the ground by Washington, but would reclaim territory they control by force if necessary, whether or not American troops supported them. In Washington, the State Department said it was not looking to fight Syrian or Iranian forces, but would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.



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Islamic State fighters 'evacuate Damascus enclave' as Bashar Assad moves to reclaim western Syria

Islamic State fighters 'evacuate Damascus enclave' as Bashar Assad moves to reclaim western SyriaA war monitor said buses evacuated Islamic State fighters from an enclave south of Damascus on Sunday in a withdrawal deal, though state media denied the report and said the Syrian army was fighting to finish off the insurgents. The recovery of the enclave south of Damascus will mark another milestone in President Bashar al-Assad's war effort, crushing the last besieged rebel enclave in western Syria. Swathes of territory at the borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, however, remain outside state control. Syrian government forces and their allies have been battling to recover the enclave south of Damascus since defeating rebels in eastern Ghouta, also near the capital, in April. The area is centred around the al-Hajar al-Aswad district and the adjoining Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk. In a live broadcast, a reporter with Syrian state TV said the Syrian army operations in the Hajar al-Aswad area were nearing their end and insurgent lines were collapsing as columns of smoke rose from the area behind him. Smoke billowing from the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk during regime strikes targeting the Islamic State group in the camp Credit: Stringer/AFP The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said buses had entered the enclave after midnight to take out fighters and their families. They had left towards the Syrian Badia, a sparsely populated expanse of territory east of the capital that extends to the border with Jordan and Iraq, it said. Islamic State militants had torched their offices in the Yarmouk enclave, the Observatory said. Negotiated withdrawals have been a common feature of the Syrian war in recent years as the government, aided by the Russian military and Iran-backed forces, has steadily clawed back territory. The rebels have mostly been given safe passage to northwestern Syria. In the last two months alone, the United Nations says 110,000 people have been evacuated to northwestern Syria and rebel-held areas north of Aleppo. Syrian president Bashar Assad meets Vladimir Putin for talks in Sochi on May 17 Credit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP The opposition has called it a policy of forced displacement amounting to demographic change to drive out Assad's opponents. The Syrian government has said nobody is forced to leave and those who stay must accept state rule. While Assad has vowed to win back "every inch" of Syria, the map of the conflict suggests a more complicated time ahead from now on. The U.S. military is in much of the east and northeast, which is controlled by Kurdish groups that want autonomy from Damascus. It has used force to defend the territory from pro-Assad forces. Turkey has sent forces into the northwest to counter those same Kurdish groups, carving out a buffer zone where anti-Assad rebels have regrouped. In the southwest, where rebels hold territory at the Israeli and Jordanian border, Assad faces the risk of conflict with Israel, which wants his Iranian-backed allies kept well away from the frontier and has mounted air strikes in Syria.



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