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Syria’s Bashar al-Assad pushes diplomatic counteroffensive on

Damascus, Mar 19 (Prensa Latina) Syrian President Bashar al Assad visit to the United Arab Emirates is seeing today as a stepped up effort to thaw relations with the Arab nations that opposed him during a war that has devastated his country for 11 years.

Assad met with the oil-rich state Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi and with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai on Friday, marking his first visit to another Arab nation since fighting began in Syria in 2011, aimed at improving relations

The leaders discussed the expansion of bilateral cooperation – particularly in terms of investment and economic relations – to promote the “aspirations of the two brotherly peoples,” Assad’s administration said.

Bin Zayed reportedly confirmed the UAE’s support for Syria’s territorial integrity and stressed the need for the withdrawal of “all foreign forcesillegitimately deployed on the Syrian lands.”

Assad said that, given increasing instability around the world, “we must continue with adherence to our principles, the sovereignty of our countries and the interests of our peoples.”

Washington backed rebel fighters, including Islamists traveling to Syria from other countries, in an effort to force regime change in Damascus. Assad also faced opposition closer to home. Syria was expelled from the Arab League after the civil war broke out, and some of its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, supported the opposition fighters.