Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad received an invitation to attend the upcoming Cop28 climate talks in Dubai later this year, even as the years-long war in his country over his rule grinds on.
Mr Assad’s invite, late on Monday, to the climate talks comes as the Syrian president already is scheduled to attend the Arab League summit this Friday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, years after being frozen out of regional politics.
A brutal crackdown by Mr Assad’s government on demonstrators in a 2011 Arab Spring uprising challenging his rule descended into a civil war and consequently became a regional conflict.
The war has killed half a million people and displaced half of the country’s population.
Mr Assad’s invitation came in a letter from Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Syria’s state-run Sana news agency reported.
The agency published images of Assad reading the letter alongside an Emirati diplomat in Damascus. The UAE similarly had cut ties with Assad, only to slowly restore them in recent years.
Asked for comment, the Emirati office organising the upcoming climate conference said in a statement that the event marked “a milestone opportunity for the world to come together, course correct, and drive progress towards keeping the goals and ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement alive”.
The statement added: “Cop28 is committed to an inclusive COP process that produces transformational solutions This can only happen if we have everyone in the room.”
Syria is both a party to the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as the Kyoto Protocol. Scientists have linked a drought in Syria that began in 2007 to climate change, saying that it likely played a part in the conflict.
However, Mr Assad’s invitation will probably heighten scrutiny of the Emirates in advance of hosting the talks.
The Conference of the Parties, from which Cop gets its name, will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from November 30th until December 12th. – AP