President Assad meets UAE ruler during Middle East visit

Image copyright EPA Image caption Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bashar Al-Assad had a short meeting in Damascus Image caption Sheikh Abdullah returned to UAE after his private meeting Syrian President Bashar…

President Assad meets UAE ruler during Middle East visit

Image copyright EPA Image caption Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bashar Al-Assad had a short meeting in Damascus Image caption Sheikh Abdullah returned to UAE after his private meeting

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met the Emir of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Damascus on Saturday.

The meeting comes as part of what Sheikh Abdullah called an “historic visit” by an Emirati head of state to Syria.

Sheikh Abdullah arrived in Damascus on Friday for a meeting with the Syrian leader.

The UAE has often been an outspoken critic of Mr Assad and opposed efforts to mediate peace in Syria.

Previous visits by UAE officials have been much smaller, and done to discuss trade issues, according to analysts.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Sheikh Abdullah arrived in Damascus with a delegation on Friday

No details of their discussions were made public, but the UAE Foreign Ministry said Sheikh Abdullah had spoken to Mr Assad on “practical, bilateral issues”.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani made a trip to Damascus last month.

Protesters greet Sheikh Abdullah

Syrian TV showed the meeting being streamed live, with Sheikh Abdullah arriving in Damascus alongside a government delegation, including a senior official, Al-Ikhbariya television reported.

Two others were seen carrying a dog, a traditional symbol of the UAE, past protest groups who were holding “No blood for oil” banners.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Protesters chanted “No blood for oil” as Sheikh Abdullah’s convoy passed

The UAE regularly criticises Mr Assad and recently broke diplomatic ties with Qatar because of its support for the Islamists that are part of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

The UAE supports Syrian rebels but has at times taken support from both IS militants and Mr Assad’s forces in separate efforts against IS.

The UN expects some 3.6 million people to be displaced in Syria by the end of the year.

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