Washington on Thursday reiterated its rejection of normalizing relations with Syria under the Assad regime after the top UAE diplomat visited Damascus this week.
Bashar al-Assad and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed met in Syria for the second time in two years on Wednesday to discuss boosting ties between the two countries and restoring relations.
But the US, which has enforced crushing economic sanctions on the Assad regime and those dealing with it, continues to oppose outreach and efforts to rehabilitate the current Syrian government.
“Our position on normalization with the Assad regime remains unchanged. We do not support it,” a National Security Council official told Al Arabiya English.
The State Department had the same response when asked about the UAE foreign minister’s latest trip to Syria.
Assad made a surprise visit to the UAE last year, which was widely criticized by Washington, in March.
Following the Syrian civil war outbreak in 2011, the Arab League kicked out Damascus and most of the countries in the region severed diplomatic ties.
In recent years, several Gulf and Arab countries have moved to restore these ties, including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan. Turkey is reportedly looking to arrange a sit-down between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and al-Assad in the near future.
“Washington and the West will not normalize with Assad, but doesn’t care if its allies try their hand engagement,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “To achieve what is the real question,” added Tabler, who was also the NSC Syria Director under former US President Donald Trump.
The top Republican senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee slammed the UAE foreign minister’s trip and said it risked sanctions and harming the UAE’s reputation.
“#UAE’s outreach to the #Assad regime provides little benefit to the Emirates. This carries huge risks to UAE’s reputation, exposes it to #Caesar sanctions, and hurts efforts to seek accountability for Assad’s crimes against the #Syrian people,” Senator Jim Risch said in a tweet.