UAE minister visits Syria, pledging backing for besieged president Assad

(FoxNews) The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister paid his highest-profile visit to Syria on Friday as the nation’s leadership pledges its support to embattled President Bashar Assad.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Assad in Damascus, the first by a government foreign minister since the start of the country’s devastating civil war in 2011.

In comments to reporters outside the residence where the meeting took place, Abdullah said Assad thanked the UAE for its support to Syria.

Al Nahyan was also expected to meet with government and opposition figures in the wake of talks held by the United Nations in Damascus last month to implement an agreement between the Syrian government and opposition.

The UAE is a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Although the UAE has expressed no public support for Assad, Bahrain is a U.S. ally and a staunch supporter of the Syrian leader.

The UAE, along with other regional allies, has provided relatively sizable financial and military aid to rebel groups fighting to overthrow Assad. But in recent years, the UAE has generally refrained from directly intervening in the civil war in the hopes of ending it.

However, in September, the UAE sent military equipment to three Syrian rebel groups, part of a cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia, which was also involved in the November military efforts to stop the advances of the Islamic State group in Syria.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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