WASHINGTON — Two days after meeting with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the United Arab Emirates’ chief diplomat will hold talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed will meet with Blinken on Tuesday afternoon, according to the State Department. The pair are expected to discuss the humanitarian response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria last week, killing more than 36,000 people.
On Sunday, the senior UAE official arrived in Syria and met with Assad. He was the first senior Gulf official to visit the war-torn country since the Feb. 6 quake.
In recent days, the UAE has sent aid to both Turkey and Syria, where the earthquake’s combined death toll has surpassed 36,000. On Monday, planes from the UAE delivered food, tents and blankets to the Damascus and Latakia airports.
“The UAE was among the first countries that stood with Syria and sent huge relief and humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams,” Assad said during his meeting with Sheikh Abdullah.
The Emirati top diplomat traveled to Damascus in November 2021, his first visit to Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011. Assad then traveled to the UAE in March 2022, marking his first trip to an Arab country in more than a decade.
At the time, the State Department said it was concerned by the UAE's "apparent attempt to legitimize” Assad. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it has no plans to normalize relations with the long-shunned Syrian government, nor does it support other countries doing so.