DAMASCUS - Syria's delegation to the United Nations climate summit in Dubai will be headed by its prime minister, a delegate said, without specifying whether President Bashar al-Assad would eventually pay a visit to the COP28 gathering.

Assad was invited by the United Arab Emirates in May, as Arab states warmed up to Damascus following a decade of isolation stemming from his crackdown on protests against him.

Those demonstrations spiralled into a full-scale war that displaced millions, gutted the country's infrastructure and sank Syria into a devastating economic crisis deepened by sanctions.

Syria's agriculture industry has been hit hard by those factors. Last year, its wheat harvest amounted to around 1 million tonnes, down some 75% from pre-crisis volumes.

The invitation to attend the climate summit was extended last spring by United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. A COP28 spokesperson told Reuters at the time that an inclusive process could "only happen if we have everyone in the room."

But a member of the Syrian delegation told Reuters that Prime Minister Hussein Arnous would lead the ministerial delegation and would focus on drumming up funding for climate projects in his war-ravaged country.

"We will present the climate situation in Syria to several parties and organisations. Our primary goal will be to bring in funding," said Manhal al-Zoaby, who heads the natural resources department at the agriculture ministry and who will also attend.

Zoaby said Syria would seek to "attract projects and funding to implement important climate adaptation activities in Syria." Zoaby did not say whether Assad would take part.

(Reporting by Firas Makdesi; Writing by Maya Gebeily, Editing by William Maclean)