WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday warned against any normalization of ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and insisted his reconciliation with Palestinian terror group Hamas — also a pariah for Washington — showed his “isolation.”
The Syrian leader, who has been gradually restoring relations in the Arab world after largely prevailing in a brutal 11-year war, on Wednesday received a delegation from the Palestinian Sunni Islamist group.
“The Assad regime’s outreach to this terrorist organization only reinforces for us its isolation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“It harms the interests of the Palestinian people and it undercuts global efforts to counterterrorism in the region and beyond,” he said.
“We will continue rejecting any support to rehabilitate the Assad regime, particularly from designated terrorist organizations like Hamas.”
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in a violent takeover, was long allied with Syria but broke with it in 2012 as it condemned the suppression of largely Sunni protests by Assad, a secular leader from the Alawite sect.
The visit to Damascus comes amid a thaw in relations brokered by Iran between Hamas and Hezbollah, the Shiite terror group from Lebanon that staunchly backs Assad.
Assad in March traveled to the United Arab Emirates, a symbolic sign of normalization condemned by the United States, a close partner of Gulf Arab states.