The US sharply denounced on Tuesday a visit from the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) top diplomat to Damascus and issued a veiled warning to regional states to carefully consider any effort to normalise relations with the Syrian regime.
UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, earlier on Tuesday led an Emirati delegation of senior officials to Damascus, where they were received by Bashar Al-Assad in what marks the first such visit since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011.
State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said the Biden administration is "concerned" by the meeting, as well as the "signal it sends."
"This administration will not express any support for efforts to normalise or to rehabilitate Bashar Al-Assad, who is a brutal dictator," Price told reporters.
"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, as well as the regime's ongoing efforts to deny much of the country access to humanitarian aid and security," he added.
Price maintained the US would not normalise or upgrade its diplomatic relations with Damascus "nor do we support other countries normalising or upgrading their relations, given the atrocities that this regime has inflicted on its own people."
Bin Zayed's visit comes more than three years after the UAE reopened its embassy in Syria.
In June 2020, former US President Donald Trump's administration warned Abu Dhabi of the repercussions of continued normalisation, and the possibility of facing sanctions under the Caesar Act, which authorises sweeping sanctions on Assad's regime.
Arab normalization efforts with the Syrian regime have accelerated since July, particularly among Jordan, the UAE, and Egypt.
The next Arab League summit in Algeria in March is expected to discuss restoring Syria's membership, which has been frozen since 2011 due to the violence of the Assad regime against its people.