The flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seen over the UAE embassy in Damascus, Syria, Dec. 27, 2018. The UAE embassy in Syrian capital Damascus was reopened Thursday afternoon and the UAE flag was raised over it, for the first time in seven years. The reopened embassy marks the first state of the Gulf Cooperation Council to resume diplomatic work in Syria. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The re-opening of the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Syria is a sign that the long-stranded Arab relations with Syria will resume and that the country is recovering diplomatically, experts say.
On Thursday afternoon, the UAE flag was hoisted over the embassy in Damascus for the first time in seven years amid a diplomatic presence of Iraq, Sudan, Tunisia, and Algeria.
Hamzeh al-Dawalibi, director of Protocol Department of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, also represented the Syrian government in the opening ceremony of the embassy.
The reopening of the embassy didn't come as a surprise as local reports in newspapers have rumored its opening as maintenance work has been going on inside the building for days.
Local reports also spoke about the visit of a delegation of UAE businessmen to Syria and the reopening of the embassy.
"We welcome any step for the return of all Arab embassies to Syria," Faisal Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister in Syria, said in recent remarks while answering a question about the return of the UAE embassy to Syria.
The opening of the embassy is important as it marks the first state of the Gulf Cooperation Council to resume diplomatic work in Syria as all Gulf states had closed their embassies in Damascus after the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011.
Abdul-Hakim al-Nuami, the UAE charge d'affaires, was cited by the pro-government Sham FM radio as saying that the return of the UAE embassy is a prelude for the return of other Arab embassies to Syria.
He added that Syria will strongly be back to the Arab world.
The Iraqi ambassador, Saad Muhammad Rida, told reporters upon leaving the opening ceremony that the raising of the UAE flag and the opening of the embassy in Damascus is an invitation to all Arab countries to return to Damascus.
"Syria is a country in the heart of the Arab world and it's an indispensable country in the Arab world and this is an invitation to the Arab countries to return," he said.
Sources familiar with the situation told Xinhua that the Syrian employees have started their jobs at the embassy on Thursday.
The opening of the embassy comes at a time when the Syrian government forces have captured much of the country amid indications that the more than seven-year war is winding down.
Some positive vibes were also seen and noticed ahead of the reopening of the UAE embassy.
On Dec. 16, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Damascus, marking the first Arab leader to do so since the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011.
At the time analysts told Xinhua that the visit could be a prelude to restoring normal Arab relations with Syria.
During his visit, the Sudanese president highlighted his country's support to Syria. President Bashar al-Assad said then that al-Bashir's visit will give a strong push toward restoring the bilateral relations to what they were before the war.
Analysts agreed that al-Bashir came as several Arab countries are sending signals to Damascus to restore relations and the possible return of Syria to the Arab League.
A couple of days later, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper said that Iraqi President Barham Salih will visit Syria soon to discuss opening border between both countries.
Earlier this week, al-Watan said that Syrian security services chief Ali Mamlouk visited Egypt over the weekend upon an official invitation of Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo.
The newspaper said the visit comes to "reunite the Arab ranks," citing diplomatic sources as saying that a visit of Egyptian officials to Syria is expected to come next.
It noted that both Syria and Egypt aim to reactivate the Syrian-Egyptian relations first and the Arab relations in general.
These positive developments in the Arab atmosphere toward Syria come as such relations have largely stranded over the past seven years due to the Syrian war.
The war was polarizing in the Arab world with some countries staying on the line with the Syrian government while others such as the Gulf states openly supporting the insurgency.
Emad al-Nadaf, a Syrian political expert, told Xinhua that the resumption of the diplomatic relations between the UAE and Syria is an indication about the recovery of Syria, hoping that more countries would follow next.
Maher Ihsan, another expert, told Xinhua that despite the fact that no UAE ambassador has yet been named, the opening of the embassy is a fix to the broken relations between both countries.
"This means that the relations are being put on the right track and we should look to the bigger image that not only the UAE is fixing the relation, but the other Gulf states as well through this embassy," he said.