Doha’s Foreign Minister dispelled speculation that his country woul follow in the footsteps of the UAE who’s top diplomat recently visited Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad in the capital Damascus.
Qatar has called on its neighbouring countries to halt their normalisation plans with Syria and affirmed its position against reconciliation with Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The latest comments by Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani came during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.
The comments followed a recent visit by the United Arab Nation’s foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanv with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.
“It will be wishful thinking to have all the countries in the region united when it comes to the issue of Syria, and we hope that countries will be discouraged from taking further steps with the Syrian regime in order not to (worsen) the misery of the Syrian people,” Al Thani said on Friday.
“We don’t see any serious steps by the Assad regime showing his commitment to repair the damage that he made for his own country and people.”
Prior to Tuesday’s visit, there had been no meetings between senior officials from either the UAE or Syria since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011, raising several questions on whether this is a sign of regional efforts to end Assad’s diplomatic isolation.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported that “President Assad received UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan” and an accompanying delegation.
“They discussed bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and ways to develop cooperation in different sectors that are of common interest,” it added.
The UAE had also called earlier this year for Syria to be readmitted to the Arab League as the country struggles to rebuild its devastated economy after years of conflict and Western sanctions.
Since Assad’s government regained control over most of the country, the UAE has made several efforts to normalise ties, with the meeting being the latest, indicating a clear sign of momentum to restore relations.
The countries also agreed to enhance trade and economic cooperation last month.
Meanwhile, Qatar, among other regional powers, has strongly backed the Syrian opposition during the decade-long civil war and has so far refused any efforts to reconcile with Assad.
“Qatar’s position will remain as it is – we don’t see any serious steps by the Assad regime showing his commitment to repair the damage that he made for his own country and for his own people,” Al-Thani added, affirming the Gulf State’s position.
“As long as he’s not taking any serious step, we think that changing the position is not a viable option.”
Meanwhile, Washington said it was concerned about Abu Dhabi’s latest move to reconcile with the Assad regime.
During a press conference on Friday, Secretary of State Blinken stated that his country is concerned about “the signals that some of these visits and engagements are sending”.
“I would simply urge all of our partners to remember the crimes that the Assad regime has committed and indeed continues to commit. We don’t support normalisation,” he added.
The Qatari official, however, emphasized that despite Qatar’s rejection for normalisation, other nations had the “sovereign right” to make their own decisions on Syria.