Syrian President Bashar al-Assad invited to attend COP28 climate talks
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has received an invitation to attend the upcoming COP28 climate conference later this year, despite the ongoing civil war being waged within his country's borders.
Al-Assad's invitation to the climate talks, which are due to be held in Dubai, comes as he prepares to attend the Arab League summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
The invitations mark a shift in international relations towards al-Assad, who has been frozen out of much regional politics in recent years.
Syria has been engaged in a deadly civil war since 2011 after al-Assad's government cracked down on demonstrators in a Arab Spring uprising which challenged his rule.
The war has killed some 500,000 people and displaced half of its population.
Al-Assad's invitation came via a letter from Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to Syria's state-run SANA news agency.
The agency also published images of al-Assad reading the letter alongside an Emirati diplomat in Damascus.
Asked for comment, the Emirati office organising 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".
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"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.
Al-Assad's invitation is likely to heighten scrutiny of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ahead of hosting the talks.
Activists have already criticised the UAE for nominating the head of its dominant state oil company as president of the talks.
The company Sultan al-Jaber represents - Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) - has plans to boost its production of both crude oil and natural gas, fossil fuels that produce more of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide that the United Nations (UN) negotiations hope to limit.
But he has also helped oversee the Emirates pledging tens of billions of dollars toward renewable energy projects worldwide.
The COP28 conference will be held at Dubai's Expo City from November 30 through to December 12.
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