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The New Arab

UAE sends large delegation to Syria trade fair despite US warning

A large number of Emirati businessmen took part in the fair [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 August, 2019

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The UAE has sent a large delegation to the Assad regime-sponsored Damascus International Fair several months after reopening its embassy in Syria, despite US warnings of sanctions

Assad regime media said on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates had sent a commercial delegation to take part in the Damascus International Fair, the New Arab’s affiliate Syria TV has reported.

The United States reiterated a warning that sanctions could affect participants in the Assad regime sponsored trade fair.

The Syrian Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, quoted an unnamed source in the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade as saying that a “large delegation” of Emirati businessmen had arrived in Damascus to take part in the fair.

The newspaper said that the delegation met with the regime’s Economy Minister, Samer al-Khalil, and, “discussed means of strengthening economic cooperation and commercial exchange between the two countries.”

On Monday, Russia’s Sputnik news agency said the Emirati delegation was made up of a number of “bright” names from the finance and business fields from six of the seven emirates. They included heads of property development companies, two general managers, and members of the chambers of commerce in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.

The American embassy in Syria posted on Twitter that those taking part could face sanctions.

“We have received reports that some regional businessmen or chambers of commerce plan to participate in the Damascus international trade fair. We reiterate our warning that anyone doing business with the Assad regime or its associates is exposing themselves to the possibility of US sanctions”, it said.

Twenty-three countries officially took part in the Damascus International Fair including Russia, China, India, North Korea, Sudan, and Bulgaria.

Another twenty-five including the UAE, Malaysia, and Spain took part through agents or private companies.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been ostracized by the international community for its brutal suppression of peaceful protests in 2011 and its killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the ongoing Syrian conflict.

The United States and the EU have imposed trade sanctions on the regime.

However, in December 2018, the UAE and Bahrain reopened their embassies in Damascus following a seven-year break in relations.

The Damascus International Fair has been held every year since 1954, except in the five years between 2012 and 2016 (inclusive) due to the Syrian conflict. It is the oldest trade fair in the Middle East.

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