The meeting is the latest in a series of diplomatic announcements pointing to a shift in the Middle East, with several Arab countries renewing ties with Assad. One such signal was a phone call last year from King Abdullah of Jordan, another US ally in the Middle East.
The United States has said it “deeply disappointed and upset by this apparent attempt to legalize Assad.” Until action is taken towards a political solution to the conflict, Washington will continue to oppose efforts to normalize or rehabilitate relations with Assad. Millions of people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began in 2011.
State Department spokesman Nate Price said the states should carefully consider their cooperation with the Assad regime. He pointed to the horrific atrocities committed by the rulers against the Syrians over the past ten years. He also accused the majority of Damascus of refusing to access humanitarian aid and security.
Iran and Russia are by far the only strong allies of Assad
Assad’s trips outside Syria during the war were limited to Iran and Russia. Thanks to the military support of those staunch allies, he has so far stood up against groups backed by foreign governments, including the Gulf states that have joined the United States.
Assad and Sheikh bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, talked about “defending Syria’s regional unity” and withdrawing foreign troops, according to the Emirates State News Agency. Political and humanitarian support for Syria and efforts to find a peaceful solution to the war in the country were also discussed.
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