UAE ruler supports Syria's Assad over coronavirus outbreak
Five cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Syria since Sunday, with rights groups deeply concerned about populations already pummelled by regime forces.
The UAE's de facto ruler, also known as MbZ, stated he discussed COVID-19 updates with Assad and "assured him of the support of the UAE and its willingness to help the Syrian people."
"Humanitarian solidarity during trying times supersedes all matters, and Syria and her people will not stand alone," MbZ tweeted.
Both leaders discussed the spread of the novel coronavirus over the phone, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.
The UAE was a supporter of the Syrian opposition in the early days of the war.
In December, however, Emirati Charge d'Affaires Abdul-Hakim Naimi praised Assad, describing relations between the two Arab countries as "solid and special".
Naimi said he hopes that "peace, security and stability will prevail Syria under the shadow of the wise leadership" of Assad.
Concerns have mounted over the coronavirus reaching Syria, with populations battered by the regime's brutal forces being most at risk.
On Tuesday, the United Nations called for the "large-scale releases of detainees and abductees" from the Syrian regime's notorious prisons. Prisoners in Syria live in overcrowded and squalid cells, often starved, tortured and in poor health.
There are at least 500,000 detainees inside regime-run prisons since the war in Syria began in 2011, according to opposition sources. There are also about 130,000 Syrians in detention centres.
Anas al-Abde, head of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, said on Thursday the regime may leave prisoners to die if they contracted the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization reports that barely 60 percent of Syria's hospitals were functioning at the end of last year, and that 70 percent of health workers have fled the country.
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