Syrian leader receives credentials from Bahrain ambassador

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DAMASCUS, Syria — A new Bahraini ambassador officially took up his post in Syria on Sunday, the country’s first full diplomatic mission in more than a decade as Damascus continues to improve relations with Arab Gulf states.

President Bashar Assad received the credentials of Ambassador Waheed Mubarak Sayyar in an official ceremony also attended by Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. Sayyar was appointed in December and recently moved to Damascus.

Assad has gradually reintegrated into traditional regional acceptance. His visit to the United Arab Emirates in March was the first such trip to an Arab country since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011.

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors after the conflict broke out.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the war, which has displaced half of Syria’s population. Large parts of Syria have been destroyed and reconstruction will cost tens of billions of dollars.

Early in the conflict, Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar rushed to support Sunni fighters battling Assad’s forces. Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned its use of military force against civilians.

In recent years, however, the Syrian army has won a series of key military victories with the help of Russia and Iran.

The Bahrain Embassy was reopened in Damascus in 2018.

Most of the Gulf countries, at odds with regional rival and Shia power Iran, are seeking warmer ties with Damascus, hoping to distance it from Tehran’s influence. Iran is a traditional ally of Syria and sent advisers and resources to support Assad during the conflict that erupted in March 2011.

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