Bashar al-Assad and UAE’s Abu Dhabi foreign minister meet for the first time

By Matt Holmes, CNN, Abu Dhabi

(CNN) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the UAE’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, were in direct talks for the first time Friday as they appeared together for talks.

It was the highest-profile foreign minister visit to Syria by an Arab leader since the country’s war began in 2011.

Assad, who told his interviewer this week that President-elect Donald Trump might agree with him about his position on the war, was again tight-lipped when told that UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan had visited him on Friday.

He praised the UAE and its leadership for supporting Syria, calling them “real, serious, important, dedicated and constructive partners”.

The Egyptian-born Sheikh Abdullah condemned the violence he has seen in Syria over the past seven years and the suffering of its people, and called for more international support for a political solution to the conflict.

“We expect the help of our friends to develop this dialogue and build trust among the leaderships of all Syria and to end the siege of Yarmouk and Homs,” he said, referring to the Palestinian refugee camp and rebel-held district in Damascus respectively.

CNN’s terrorism specialist Paul Cruickshank previously said if the U.S. does not play a role in Syria’s conflict, its opponents — particularly Russia and Iran — are likely to see them as “the regional exporters of terror.”

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