Syria has agreed to build a solar power plant near Damascus with firms from the United Arab Emirates, according to state media on Thursday, indicating growing economic ties.
The agreement comes just two days after UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus for the first time since the conflict began.
The visit was widely interpreted as a sign of regional efforts to end al-diplomatic Assad’s isolation as Syria faces a spiraling economic crisis exacerbated by years of conflict and exacerbated by Western sanctions.
According to the official SANA news agency, “the ministry of electricity and a consortium of Emirati firms have signed a cooperation agreement to establish a solar power plant with a 300-megawatt capacity” in Damascus suburbs.
The project was initially approved by the Syrian government last month, with Economy Minister Samer al-Khalil hailing it as a positive sign for future investment in Syria.
The UAE’s economy ministry stated at the time that it had reached an agreement with Syria on “future plans to enhance economic cooperation and explore new sectors.”
In February 2012, nearly a year after the Syrian war began, the UAE severed ties with the Iran-backed government in Damascus.
The 11-year conflict began with nationwide protests calling for regime change, which were met with a harsh government crackdown.
It erupted into a devastating war that drew a slew of regional and international powers and killed nearly 500,000 people.
The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, and in March of this year it called for Syria to rejoin the Arab League.
Syria’s war has ravaged the country’s power grids, resulting in round-the-clock power outages that are now exacerbated by fuel shortages.
The energy sector has suffered “100 billion dollars in direct and indirect damages” since the start of the war, according to Syria’s economy minister last month.
Last month, the electricity ministry signed a $115 million contract with an Iranian firm to rehabilitate a power station in the country’s war-torn central province.