DUBAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Oman has sent an ambassador to Syria, becoming the first Persian Gulf Arab state to do so after they downgraded or shut missions in Damascus in 2012 over attacks by the government there on protests at the start of what turned into a war.
Oman is one of the rare Arab countries that kept diplomatic relations with the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad after the 2011 uprising, despite pressure from the United States and other Persian Gulf allies.
Syria’s foreign minister on Sunday accepted the credentials of Oman’s Ambassador Turki bin Mahmood al-Busaidy, appointed to the post in a royal decree in March, state news agency ONA said.
Some Arab states are seeking reconciliation with Damascus after decisive gains by pro-government forces in the conflict, aiming to expand their clout in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran, who have backed Assad.
Oman, whose Sultan Haitham pledged when assuming power in January to continue maintaining friendly ties with all nations, kept its embassy open, as did Bahrain.
The United Arab Emirates re-opened its mission to Damascus in late 2018 in a diplomatic boost to Assad, and has a charge d’affaires there.
The UAE was one of several regional states to back rebel groups in Syria, though its role was less prominent than those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have so far held off re-establishing ties with Damascus.
Kuwait has said it would re-open its mission in Damascus if there is agreement in the Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership in 2011.
Assad has recovered control of most of Syria with support from Russia along with Iran — Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s foe — and Iranian-backed Sh’ite Muslim groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The United States has imposed new sanctions aimed at cutting off funds for Assad’s government and warned that anyone doing business with Damascus was also at risk of being blacklisted.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean)