After withdrawing their ambassadors from Syria in 2012 as militant groups, most of them aligned to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, began closing in on the capital of Damascus, Greece and Cyprus have restored their relations with the war torn country.
Greece and Cyprus are not the only European Union countries restoring their ties with Syria (Czechia never closed their embassy, with Bulgaria and Hungary also returning diplomatic representatives to Damascus.
Athens confirmed to Euronews on Friday that its embassy in Damascus was now open.
This confirmation comes after Greece said it was reopening its embassy in May 2020 and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias appointed Tasia Athanassiou, the former ambassador to Syria, as Special Envoy of Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Syria.
There had been no further news regarding this matter until May 31 when a Syrian journalist spotted a Greek flag raised on the Greek Embassy.
Cyprus’ chargé d’affaires in Damascus, Sevag Avedissian, told Euronews that Nicosia’s embassy in Syria was “in the process of resuming operations” and will reopen “in the coming weeks.”
He added that the country had had a permanent diplomatic presence in a hotel, rather than its own premises, “since mid-October” last year.
Avedissian insisted that the country didn’t appoint an ambassador to Syria but a chargé d’affaires, “without presenting credentials to Assad in line with EU policy.”
The bloc does not recognise Assad as a legitimate head of state and therefore EU countries’ ambassadors would not present their credentials to him.
“We left Damascus for security reasons, not because we wanted to suspend diplomatic relations,” the diplomat explained, adding that Cypriot diplomats continued to cover Syria from Lebanon throughout the war.
“If you look at a map, Syria is the second closest country to Cyprus in geographic terms,” Avedissian said, recalling that Nicosia didn’t maintain relations with neighbouring Turkey, which does not recognise Cyprus.
“It’s important to be present in neighbouring countries,” he told Euronews. “We had to be back.”
In March, Dendias said that Greece considers its relationship with Syria “extremely important.”