Mar 20, 2022 - World

U.S. "profoundly disappointed" at Syrian president's UAE visit

Assad and UAE ruler
yria's Bashar al-Assad meets with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktouma, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, on March 18. Photo: Government of Dubai - Media Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.S. is "profoundly disappointed and troubled" by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's visit to the United Arab Emirates this week, which it sees as an attempt to "legitimize" the embattled dictator, State Department spokesman Ned Price told Axios in a statement on Sunday.

Why it matters: Assad's trip to the UAE on Friday was his first official visit to an Arab country since the start of the Syrian war in March 2011, according to Reuters.

  • Assad's other international trips have been limited to allies Iran and Russia, whereas the UAE had previously backed Assad's opponents, per Reuters.
  • Assad met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who emphasized that Syria is a pillar of Arab security and voiced the UAE's willingness to bolster cooperation with Syria, per Reuters.

What they're saying: "We are profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar Al-Assad, who remains responsible and accountable for the death and suffering of countless Syrians, the displacement of more than half of the pre-war Syrian population, and the arbitrary detention and disappearance of over 150,000 Syrian men, women and children," Price said.

  • The U.S. has made clear to its partners that it does not support efforts to "rehabilitate" Assad or support others' attempts to normalize relations, he added.
  • "We urge states considering engagement with the Assad regime to weigh carefully the horrific atrocities visited by the regime on the Syrians over the last decade, as well as the regime’s continuing efforts to deny much of the country access to humanitarian aid and security."
  • Price added that the U.S. will not lift or waive sanctions on Syria until progress toward a political solution to the conflict is made.

The big picture: Most countries in the region cut ties with Assad's regime at the start of the Syrian war, with Syria also being suspended from the Arab League.

  • However, in the last few months Egypt, Jordan and several other countries have begun reviving ties with Syria and preparing to bring the country back into the fold of the Arab League.
  • UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed visited Assad in Damascus last November.
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