U.S. says it doesn’t support countries normalizing ties with Syria

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price steps from the podium after speaking at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2021. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The United States does not support countries normalizing relations with Syria, said state department’s spokesman, after UAE foreign minister paid a visit to Damascus on Tuesday.

“We are concerned about reports of his meeting and the signal it sends,” State Department’s Spokesman Ned Price said in a press conference on Tuesday.

United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed met with Syria President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, a sign of improving ties between Assad and a U.S. allied Arab state.

The UAE foreign minister is the most senior Emirati dignitary to visit Syria in the decade since the eruption of a civil war in which several Arab states backed mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents against Assad.

Price said the United States would not express any support for efforts to normalize or rehabilitate relations with Syria, calling Assad a “brutal dictator”.

“We urge states in the region to carefully consider the atrocities that this regime, that Bashar al-Assad himself has perpetrated on the Syrian people over the last decade,” he added.

“I will leave it to our allies to characterize their position on Syria, their position on the Assad regime. When it comes to our position on the Assad regime, look, we will not normalize or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime, nor do we support other countries normalizing or upgrading their relations, given the atrocities that this regime has inflicted on its own people, on the Syrian people.”

The UAE has been at the forefront of efforts by some Arab states to normalize ties with Damascus, and earlier this year called for Syria to be readmitted to the Arab League.

It reopened its embassy in Damascus three years ago.

Jordan and Egypt, both U.S. allies, have also taken steps toward normalizing relations since Assad, with Russian and Iranian help, defeated rebels across much of Syria, apart from some northern and eastern areas that remain outside his grasp.

The United States has also said it will not lift sanctions, including measures that can freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria, regardless of nationality.

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