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US foreign policy

US Republicans blast Arab states over normalization efforts with Syria’s Assad

“It is disappointing that some US partners, including members of the Arab League, are losing their resolve to punish Assad by looking to normalize relations, including through energy deals that would involve payments to the Assad regime,” Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Michael McCaul said in a statement.

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Two Republican officials on Tuesday blasted attempts by unnamed Arab states to normalize ties with Syria and its president Bashar al-Assad.

“It is disappointing that some US partners, including members of the Arab League, are losing their resolve to punish Assad by looking to normalize relations, including through energy deals that would involve payments to the Assad regime,” Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Michael McCaul said in a statement.

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The statement was released following reports of US partners pursuing normalization with Assad, the two officials said.

Over the weekend, it was reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah received a call from Assad in what was believed to be the first time they have spoken since the start of the Syrian war.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly warned against normalizing relations with the Syrian president before he agrees to implement UN-backed resolutions on a peaceful solution to the yearslong war.

Although they did not name any countries specifically, Egypt and Jordan have recently agreed to supply crisis-struck Lebanon with electricity and natural gas. This would have to pass through Syria, which is under crippling US economic sanctions.

The Caesar Act law, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last year, prevents countries and international companies from doing business with the Assad regime.

But US officials have been working on ways to ensure that Cairo and Amman are not sanctioned for such a move, greenlighted by Washington and the Biden administration.

Separately, the UAE’s economy minister met with his Syrian counterpart on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020. The pair looked at ways to expand their relationship, the state-run WAM news agency reported.

“Bashar al-Assad has inflicted enormous suffering on the Syrian people, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Syrians and committing crimes against humanity with assistance from Russia and Iran,” Risch and McCaul said.

“The conflict in Syria has destabilized the entire Middle East region. Normalizing relations now will only allow that destabilization to continue,” they added.

Read more: US warns allies of sanctions for those who engage with Syria’s Assad regime