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More Arab countries to reopen embassies in Damascus

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The flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seen over the UAE embassy in Damascus, Syria, Dec. 27, 2018 for the first time in seven years. Xinhua

DUBAI (Reuters) – Kuwait expects more Arab countries to reopen embassies in Damascus in “coming days” but added that the move would need a green light from the Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership seven years ago.

Arab states, including some that once backed rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, are seeking to reconcile with him after decisive gains by his forces in the war, aiming to expand their clout in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran.

The United Arab Emirates re-opened its embassy in Damascus last Thursday and Bahrain said the next day that its embassy there and the Syrian diplomatic mission in Manama had been operating “without interruption”.

Kuwait’s Deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said the Gulf state remained committed to the Arab League’s decision and would reopen its embassy in Damascus once the organisation allowed it.

Mr Jarallah expected a “thaw in relations between Syria and Arab Gulf states in the coming days as more nations look to reopen their embassies in Damascus,” state news agency KUNA reported.

Arab League’s permanent representatives are due to meet in Cairo on Jan. 6.

US-allied Gulf Arab states were the main regional backers of armed groups opposed to Mr Assad, providing finance or weapons or both, acting largely as part of a program of support for the armed opposition coordinated by Washington.

Unlike its other neighbors, Kuwait kept Syria’s embassy in Kuwait City open and opposed arming the rebels, although private donors in Kuwait sent funds to anti-Assad forces. Kuwait has led a humanitarian fundraising campaign for Syria through the United Nations.

Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 in response to the government’s violent crackdown on “Arab Spring” protests. For Syria to be reinstated, the Arab League must reach a consensus.

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