Top Oman diplomat meets Assad in rare Syria visit

Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since his crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011. – EPA pic, July 7, 2019.

THE Oman state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah today met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Muscat said, in the Gulf official’s second visit to the war-wracked country since conflict broke out in 2011.

The two met to discuss bilateral relations and regional security, the sultanate’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that Abdullah also met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.

Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 for its deadly crackdown on an uprising against Assad’s rule, and fellow Arab countries, including Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have supported the opposition.

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos adheres to a strict policy of non-interference in regional affairs, maintaining relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, a key backer of Assad.

Abdullah visited Damascus in 2015, Syria’s official Sana news agency reported at the time, to discuss ways to “resolve the crisis in Syria”.

During a visit to Oman last year, Muallem praised Muscat for taking “supportive positions towards Syria at various Arab and international forums”, the state-run Oman News Agency reported.

Syria’s once rocky ties with the region are on the rebound.

The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus late last year after years of closure, and relations with Bahrain and Jordan have also improved.

However, Saudi Arabia remains hostile to Assad, who has made a military comeback with support from Russia since 2015, clawing back almost two-thirds of the country.

The multi-front war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011. – AFP, July 7, 2019.

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