The State Department says the US does not support efforts to rehabilitate Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, and also does not "support others normalising relations".

Assad and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have discussed
Assad and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have discussed "fraternal relations" between their countries, news agency WAM has reported. (WAM/Handout via Reuters)

Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad's visit to the United Arab Emirates has left the US "profoundly disappointed", it has said, urging allies to avoid normalising ties with a regime accused of "horrific atrocities".

"We are profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimise Bashar al Assad," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement sent to AFP news agency 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 normalising relations", Price said.

"We have been clear about this with our partners...(and) we urge states considering engagement with the Assad regime to weigh carefully the horrific atrocities visited by the regime."

Assad's surprise trip on Friday was his first official visit to an Arab country since civil war erupted in his country over a decade ago, killing close to half a million people and displacing millions more.

It was the latest sign of warming relations between Syria and energy-rich UAE — a key US ally which also normalised ties with Israel in 2020.

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Ties in focus

Syria's civil war erupted in March 2011 after the brutal repression of anti-government protests. A year later, the UAE, like most Arab countries, broke ties with Damascus.

But the UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital in December 2018, suggesting an effort to bring Assad's regime back into the Arab fold.

On Friday, Assad and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed "fraternal relations" between the two countries, the official news agency WAM reported.

Talks also centred on efforts to "contribute to the consolidation of security, stability and peace in the Arab region and the Middle East", said WAM.

Mohamed bin Zayed said he hoped the visit would "pave the way for goodness, peace and stability to prevail in Syria and the entire region", it added.

Photographs released by Syria's presidency showed Assad also meeting with Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, during the one-day visit.

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Source: AFP