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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A United Arab Emirates diplomat has praised Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “wise leadership,” describing relations between the two Arab countries as “solid and special.”

The comments by Charge d’affaires Abdul-Hakim Naimi came during a ceremony late on Monday in Damascus to mark UAE’s National Day.

In December 2018, the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus for the first time in seven years, a reflection of improved relations between Assad and some of his Arab foes as the government gains more ground in the war-torn country.

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Naimi said he hopes that “peace, security and stability will prevail Syria under the shadow of the wise leadership” of Assad.

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The UAE was a supporter of the Syrian opposition, which is now largely confined to the northern Idlib province after losing its strongholds elsewhere.

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