Qatar sees no reason for normalising ties with Syria, says foreign minister


Dubai (Reuters) – Qatar has no plans to normalise ties with Syria, the Gulf state’s foreign minister said, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a fourth term in office last week in an election derided by the opposition and the West as a farce.

Qatar was among several states that backed rebels in Syria’s decade-old civil war. Some like the United Arab Emirates have sought to normalise ties after Assad regained control of most of the country.

“So far we see nothing on the horizon for a political solution acceptable to the Syrian people … the (regime’s)approach and conduct has not changed,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told U.K.-based Al Araby television in an interview aired on Friday.

“There is no motivation for us to re-establish ties with the Syrian regime at this time,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “The Syrian regime is committing crimes against its people.”

Syria’s government said Wednesday’s election shows the country is functioning normally despite the war which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million.

Gulf states downgraded or shut missions in Damascus in 2012 over attacks by the government on protests at the start of the conflict.

The UAE re-opened its mission to Damascus in late 2018 in a bid to counter the influence of non-Arab actors like Iran, which along with Russia backs Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels.

The UAE has a charge d’affaires in Syria. Oman, one of the rare Arab countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Damascus, sent an ambassador in 2020.

The Qatari minister, who visited Libya last week, said Doha plans to reopen its diplomatic mission in Tripoli soon.

The embassy was closed in 2014 when many foreign missions in the Libyan capital shut down as the country split between warring administrations.

Since fighting in Libya ended last summer, the factions have accepted a new unity government mandated to unify institutions and prepare for elections in December.

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