DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad received an invitation to attend the upcoming COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year, even as the yearslong war in his country over his rule grinds on.
Assad’s invite, late Monday, to the climate talks comes as the Syrian president already is scheduled to attend the Arab League summit this Friday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, years after being frozen out of regional politics. A brutal crackdown by Assad’s government on demonstrators in a 2011 Arab Spring uprising challenging his rule descended into a civil war and consequently became a regional conflict.
The conflict has resulted in the death of half a millon people, and forced half its population to flee.
Assad received his invitation in a written letter by Emirati leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. This was reported by Syria’s official news agency SANA. The news agency released images showing Assad and an Emirati diplomatic official in Damascus reading the letter. In recent years, the UAE has also restored ties to Assad after cutting them for a time.
Asked for comment, the Emirati office organizing the upcoming climate conference said in a statement that the event marked “a milestone opportunity for the world to come together, course correct, and drive progress towards keeping the goals and ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement alive.”
“COP28 is committed to an inclusive COP process that produces transformational solutions,” the statement added. “This can only happen if we have everyone in the room.”
Syria is both a party to the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as the Kyoto Protocol. Scientists have linked a drought in Syria that began in 2007 to climate change, saying that it likely played a part in the conflict.
However, Assad’s invitation will probably heighten scrutiny of the Emirates ahead of hosting the talks.
Already, activists have criticized the UAE for nominating the head of its dominant state oil company as the president of the talks. This company plans to increase its crude oil production and that of natural gas. These fossil fuels produce more carbon dioxide, which traps heat. The U.N. talks hope to reduce this. Sultan al-Jaber has helped the Emirates pledge tens billions to renewable energy projects around the world.
The Conference of the Parties — where COP gets its name — will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from Nov. 30 through Dec. 12.
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