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Arab states normalising ties with Syria should "get something" in return, US official says

April 2, 2023 at 9:07 am

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]

Arab nations normalising relations with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his regime should try to “get something” out of it, a senior American official has said.

Speaking in a digital briefing from the US Department of State’s London International Media Hub, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said that Washington has been having discussions with its allies in the Middle East about “their shift in policy” toward the Assad regime.

“They want to try engagement,” she said. “Our approach on that score is that make sure to get something for that engagement.” She suggested “ending the Captagon trade right at the top, alongside the other issues…that go to providing relief to the Syrian people from the terrible decade of oppression that they suffered.”

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Leaf, who visited Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia over the past two weeks, called captagon – the cheap methamphetamine produced primarily by the Assad regime – “a new, terrible scourge across the region.” The Syrian regime’s profiting from the smuggling of captagon and narcotics to circumvent western sanctions is “just another terrible example of why this regime deserves to be treated as the rogue it is.”
She reiterated the US’s position that it would not normalise relations with Damascus, as many Arab states in the region have been doing over the past few years and continue to do, emphasising Washington’s recent imposition of sanctions on the Assad regime over its narcotics trafficking. “We don’t intend to normalise,” Leaf stressed. “This regime is such a disaster for its people but also for its neighbourhood.”

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