Will Saudi, Emirati Attempts Succeed to Lobby Europe to Restore Ties with Bashar Al-Assad?

The Saudi and Emirati regimes have confirmed more than once that they are strong allies of dictatorial regimes in the region, topped by the Syrian regime.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) and UAE ruler Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) are lobbying several of their European allies to restore diplomatic relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ease economic sanctions on the Syrian regime.

The push by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to restore ties between Assad and Europe follows the successful reintegration of the Syrian regime into the Arab League last month.

The Emiratis and Saudis have decided to end the 12-year conflict to boost their economic and diplomatic ties at the expense of thousands of refugees who were forced to leave their homes for more than a decade, in addition to thousands of victims, detainees, and missing persons.

The US and EU have earlier imposed heavy economic sanctions on key figures and entities for the heinous crimes carried out by the Assad regime during the Syrian war. However, these crimes seem to have fallen on deaf ears in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Unfortunately, Saudi and Emirati officials are using refugees as a bargaining chip with Europe, claiming that removing the sanctions would allow the return of millions of refugees to their country.

The Syrian war, which was triggered by the Assad regime against peaceful protests in 2011, left at least 500,000 people dead, half the pre-war population of 23 million displaced, and led to the rise of the Islamic State and other extremist armed groups.

To date, al-Assad has not presented any plan for an overall and comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Syria, that guarantees the protection of Syrian refugees, political detainees’ release, or holding accountable those involved in war crimes during the conflict. Of course, he cannot do it, as he is the first wanted person!

The Saudi and Emirati attempts to rehabilitate the Assad regime came as part of the two oil countries’ attempts to assert their own foreign policy independent of the US, while strengthening ties with Assad’s military and diplomatic backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the Saudi kingdom has begun Chinese-mediated talks for normalisation with Assad’s other major partner, Iran.

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