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Syrian President Bashar Assad visited the United Arab Emirates over the weekend in the first trip to an Arab country since the start of Syria’s civil war a decade ago, Bloomberg reported.

Assad met with de facto UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in what analysts describe as a sign that Gulf leaders are willing to welcome Syria back into the Arab world.

In 2011, Syria became a pariah state in the region following Assad’s violent crackdown on the anti-government protests that eventually triggered the ongoing civil war.

Despite the isolation, Assad clung to power with the help of Iran and Russia, whose intervention helped turn the tide of the conflict.

In the recent meeting, the leaders reportedly discussed “issues of common concern,” such as Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, according to Al Jazeera.

The Emirati crown prince also expressed hope the visit would be the beginning of peace and stability for Syria and the entire region. His comments underscore the willingness of Gulf Arab governments to reintegrate Syria into the fold, instead of abandoning Damascus to their regional rival Iran.

Even so, the United States criticized the meeting and said it would not support any normalization with Assad’s regime.

Assad’s visit comes as the US and Iran are trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that many Gulf leaders see as a threat to their security.

Meanwhile, Washington is trying to rally traditional Gulf allies to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Assad has supported Russia’s incursion of Ukraine and the Kremlin has threatened to bring fighters from the Middle East into Ukraine. Some reported that Syrians are already fighting in Ukraine.

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