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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

From invited to indicted: Why Assad chose not to attend COP28

With more than 140 heads of state participating in the United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai, one government “leader” of the Middle East countries is noticeably absent: Bashar Assad.

Bashar Assad failed to attend and his absence has been attributed by many to the warrant for his arrest issued by French authorities several weeks ago

The COP28, which began on November 30 in Dubai, and will run until December 12, is a widely attended annual conference held to discuss ways to decrease global emissions from fossil fuels and increase international commitments to limiting global warming to around 3 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. Despite receiving an invitation to the conference last May, as well as his recent efforts to normalize his relationships with world leaders, Bashar Assad failed to attend and his absence has been attributed by many to the warrant for his arrest issued by French authorities several weeks ago.

Before the issuance of the November 15, 2023 warrant, Assad’s participation in the conference would most likely have been a given due to his eagerness to be seen as a valid world leader in the international arena. But that abruptly changed after the issuance of the warrant due to the agreement on mutual judicial cooperation and extradition of criminals signed by the heads of state of the United Arab Emirates and France on June 23rd, 2006, which would require Abu Dhabi officials to cooperate with any effort by Paris to extradite Assad to France should he step foot on their soil. 

the attendance of Assad would pose a challenge to the UAE’s commitment to the 2006 extradition agreement and put him in jeopardy of being extradited so he chose to remain in the relative safety of Syria

The arrest warrants against Assad, his brother Maher, and two of his aides, charged them with using prohibited chemical weapons against civilians in the city of Douma and Eastern Ghouta in 2013 which resulted in the deaths of more than 1000 people.

Even though he has been known in the past for arrogant defiance of international law, the attendance of Assad would pose a challenge to the UAE’s commitment to the 2006 extradition agreement and put him in jeopardy of being extradited so he chose to remain in the relative safety of Syria sending his prime minister, Hussein Arnous, to attend in his place. Assad gave no explanation for why he was not attending the conference himself.

The delegation led by Arnous arrived in the UAE on November 30, accompanied by Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf, Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Sabbagh, and Assistant Minister of Water Resources for Strategic Water Affairs Jihad Kanaan, none of whom have been affected by the arrest warrants issued by the Paris judiciary.

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