“We are profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement sent to AFP on Saturday.
As US Secretary of State Antony “Blinken has reiterated, we do not support efforts to rehabilitate Assad, and we do not support others normalizing relations,” Price said.
Assad traveled to the UAE on Friday, meeting with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
During his meeting with Assad, UAE’s crown prince “stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security.”
“The UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with Syria,” he added, describing the two nations as “brotherly peoples.”
In his meeting with Assad, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, said he hoped the visit would “pave the way for goodness, peace and stability to prevail in Syria and the entire region.”
The two sides also discussed ways of “preserving the territorial integrity of Syria and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country,” as well as means of providing “political and humanitarian support for Syria.”
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the meeting helped to “strengthen cooperation” between the two sides.
Assad’s visit to the UAE took place only months after the Emirates’ Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan traveled to the Syrian capital Damascus. It also came amid the widely-reported prospect of Damascus’ return to the Arab League regional grouping.