Dec. 27 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates opened its embassy in Syria for the first time in six years Thursday, a sign that the country sees the long civil war winding down.
Most Arab countries closed their embassies in Damascus after the fighting began in 2011. The conflict has killed an estimated 500,000 people.
Construction has been going for weeks at the UAE embassy, culminating in a special reopening ceremony Thursday that leaders said "reaffirms the keenness of the UAE to restore relations between the two friendly countries to their normal course."
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the goal now is "strengthen and activate the Arab role in supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian Arab affairs."
Diplomats attending the event included Iraq's ambassador to Damascus, and Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir became the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the war started.
Russian Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said Thursday the reopening comes at a time of increased popularity for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"If he wasn't [popular], the results of the last few years would have been different," Bogdanov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has lobbied hard for Syria to be readmitted to the league of Arab Nations.
President Donald Trump said last week the United States would pull its troops out of Syria because the Islamic State terror group has been defeated, although some politicians and experts have disagreed on that claim.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been planning a counter-terror offensive east of the Euphrates River. After talking with Trump, Erdogan agreed to delay the action, but didn't set a specific timeline.