US ‘Troubled’ by Syrian President’s First Visit to UAE Since 2011 War

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The United States said Friday that it was “profoundly disappointed and troubled” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), calling it an attempt to “legitimize Assad.”

The Syrian Presidency said Friday that Assad met with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also a vice president and Prime Minister of the UAE, making his first trip to an Arab country since the Syrian war began in 2011.

“The meeting dealt with the overall relations between the two countries and the prospects for expanding the circle of bilateral cooperation, especially at the economic, investment, and commercial levels,” the office said in a post on Twitter.

Assad also met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who described Syria as “a fundamental pillar of Arab security and that the UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with it.”

The two leaders also discussed “preserving the territorial integrity of Syria and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country,” as well as providing “political and humanitarian support for Syria,” according to state-run Emirates News Agency.

The trip, coincided with the 11th anniversary of the Syrian uprising, drew criticism from Washington, which said that it still stands against normalizing ties or rehabilitating Assad.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington will not waive or lift sanctions on Syria unless progress is made toward a political solution to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since spiraling out of an uprising against Assad.

“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,” he said.

Arab countries that severed ties with the Assad regime during Syria’s decade-long civil war have moved to mend fences. Signs of rapprochement between Assad and Arab states grew last year, including a phone call with King Abdullah of Jordan, another U.S. ally.

On Tuesday, the State Department issued a joint statement with France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom opposing efforts to normalize relations with the Assad regime.

“We do not support efforts to normalize relations with the Assad regime, and will not normalize relations ourselves, nor lift sanctions or fund reconstruction until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution,” they stated.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian and UAE leaders reportedly declined President Joe Biden’s attempt to discuss developing international support for Ukraine and controlling a rise in oil prices, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 8, citing an unidentified U.S. official.

The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration requested a phone conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, but “it did not happen.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly

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Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.





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