Abdullah bin Zayed: US Caesar Act complicates the situation in Syria

The UAE considers that issues related to the Syrian crisis should be part of “dialogue” with the United States.
Wednesday 10/03/2021
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed awarded Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the Order of the Union, one of the UAE’s highest civilian honours. (wam)
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) walks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Abu Dhabi, March 9, 2021. (AFP)

ABU DHABI --The UAE said that the US Caesar Act, which imposes sanctions on those dealing with Syria, further complicates the situation and impedes Syria’s return to the Arab fold.

The UAE’s position was viewed as tantamount to a call on the new US administration to reconsider this law.

In a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Abu Dhabi, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pushed for “joint action with Syria,” saying that the American economic pressure campaign “as it is today makes the matter difficult.”

He added that while efforts were required by both the Syrians and the Arab League bloc, the “bigger challenge today facing coordination and working with Syria is the Caesar Act.”

“To keep the Caesar Act as it is today makes this path very difficult, not only for us as a nation, but also for the private sector,” he said

The Caesar Act, which came into effect in June 2020, imposes severe penalties on the Syrian regime, and on external parties (governments or private companies) that deal with it.

Washington has so far imposed sanctions on 58 people and entities linked to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including companies in the oil sector.

Sheikh Abdullah said these sanctions are an issue that “should be part of dialogue we address clearly with our friends in the United States.”

He further pushed for the reinstatement of war-torn Syria in the 22-member Arab League and noted the government and private sector “could play a role” in returning Syria “to normal” after years of ruinous war.

Analysts see Sheikh Abdullah’s statements as reflecting a desire by the UAE to see the United States reassess its position on Syria so to help facilitate a solution to the ten-year crisis.

They point out that the continuation of the crisis does not only affect Syria, but also the region as a whole, especially from the security perspective. They believe the situation in Syria provides extremist groups with fertile ground to radicalise, recruit and train new militants.

They say that the ongoing crisis has opened the door to diverse external interference in Syria, with each foreign party believing that its presence is warranted as long as a permanent solution has not been reached.

Putting an end to the Caesar Act, they believe, would give further impetus to the Arab role in extricating Syria from its crisis and fostering a political transition based on the consecration of Syria’s territorial integrity and working for a Syrian-Syrian solution without external interference or imposed agendas.

An Emirati source, who declined to be named, said, “What is happening now in Syria is similar to the Iraqi scenario of the 1990s.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi, March 9, 2021. (AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi, March 9, 2021. (AFP)

“The war is coming to a halt, but economic sanctions are killing the people but are not destabilising the system. We all know the price that Iraq and the whole region have paid in terms of security and stability,” he added.

A Syrian political analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, indicated that the UAE’s initiative calling for an end to the Caesar Act “shows the pertinence of Arab proposals in dealing with regional issues. But what is most important about it is that it engages the United States openly and conveys to it the Arab perspective on the Syrian issue.”

The Syrian analyst added that the same approach can relay to the new US administration the Arabs’ views about disputes and their settlement  options as well as their positions on various other issues, including Yemen and the relationship with Iran.

The Emirati foreign minister said, “We discussed with the Russian side the implications of extremism and violence,” adding that “relations with Russia have witnessed a remarkable development in many aspects, and our relations with Russia aim to create a better future for all.”

After the meeting, he pointed out that his country believes in the importance of “strengthening relations of cooperation with all countries of the world, as relations with Russia will continue to develop in all fields.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed during the same press conference that his country supports a political settlement in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

“In these cases, Russia and the UAE promote a peaceful political settlement based on the UN Charter and relevant UN resolutions. We advocate an inclusive dialogue for overcoming all crises, ” he said.

He also welcomed “the normalisation of Israel’s relations with several Arab states, including the UAE” while emphasising “the understanding that a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem must not be relegated to the background. ”

Lavrov expressed Russia’s support for a simultaneous return of the United States and Iran to the 2015 nuclear accord.

He said, ” We are convinced that we should now focus on restoring the JCPOA in full and not overburden it with other considerations and concerns however important they might be.”

He added, “To resolve this immediate task, we believe we should work out the concurrent steps that the Iranians and the United States will need to take. If we keep discussing who should be the first to resume compliance, we will never arrive at anything.”

On Tuesday evening, Lavrov met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The two sides discussed a number of regional and international issues and developments of common interest and efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.

On the sidelines of his visit to the UAE, the Russian minister met with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday. They discussed developments in Lebanon and the region. The meeting was attended  by the Russian president’s envoy to the Middle East and North Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov.

A Lebanese political source said that the meeting between Lavrov and Hariri offered an expression of support to the prime minister-designate to expedite his cabinet formation efforts.

The source told The Arab Weekly that Moscow gives importance to the messages it receives from Hariri.