UAE renews relations with Syria

The United Arab Emirates intends to re-open its embassy in Damascus, six years after it was closed.

According to media reports, Abu Dhabi has ordered full maintenance works to its Syrian embassy to be ready for opening within the next two weeks. The decision comes after a source in Damascus said the Syrian regime and the Gulf Emirate have been in discussion about the need to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideology in the region.

Other Gulf states are also reportedly considering restoring diplomatic relations with Damascus. All Gulf states, apart from Oman, closed their Syrian embassies in 2012.

Jordan is in talks with the US and Russia to dismantle the Al Rukban camp used by 50,000 Syrian refugees. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al Qatarneh said the kingdom backed a Russian plan “to create the conditions that allow the emptying of the camp”. Jordanian officials have repeatedly said the camp is infiltrated with ISIS sleeper cells.

The Russian plan involves negotiating with Syrian tribal leaders and former Western-backed rebels sheltering in the camp area to provide safe passage for refugees to travel to opposition areas in northern Syria and to help those who want to go their homes in state-held areas. But tribal leaders say many camp inhabitants are not ready to go back to homes in state-held areas for fear of being conscripted into the Syrian army.

The Al Rukban camp is located close to a US base in south-eastern Syria at Tanf on the Iraq-Syria border. Tanf lies on the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, once a major supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria. It falls within a so-called de-confliction zone set up by the US Pentagon to try to shield the Tanf garrison from attacks by pro-Syrian forces.

Syrian state media has reported that the army has freed 19 Druze women and children held hostage since July by ISIS. The hostages, who were seized during an ISIS attack in the southern Suweida region in which more than 200 people were killed, were rescued when soldiers launched an operation north-east of Palmyra.