The United Arab Emirates sharply criticized Turkey and Iran for what the country’s top diplomat said were “colonial” policies in Syria, as the protracted civil war exposes new regional rifts over how to resolve the conflict.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan called for “the exit of those parties trying to reduce the sovereignty of the Syrian state,” adding, “I speak here frankly and clearly about Iran and Turkey.”
The minister’s unreserved comment highlights the Gulf’s conflicting policies toward Syria. UAE follows the lead of Saudi Arabia in opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government, but it has also been against outside intervention by regional countries such as Turkey and Iran.
Sheikh al-Nahyan spoke during a joint news conference alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Abi Dhabi. Moscow’s unyielding diplomatic support for Damascus at the U.N. Security Council largely protects the Assad regime from international sanctions and other pressure. Russian air support was crucial in the fall of Aleppo and other northern cities to Assad’s forces.
“If Iran and Turkey continue the same historical, colonial and competitive behavior and perspectives between them in Arab affairs, we will continue in this situation not just in Syria today, but tomorrow in some other country,” Reuters quoted Sheikh Abdullah as saying.
The Syrian war has pitted regional countries against each other amid constant shifting alliances.
Abu Dhabi’s opposition to both Turkey and Iran stems in part from the fact that the two countries back Qatar in an intra-Gulf row, putting them in opposition to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar’s engagement with both countries moderates the impact of the blockade imposed on it by Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf allies.