US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony BlinkenState Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

The United States does not support efforts to normalize relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad or lift sanctions imposed on Damascus until there is progress in the political process in the war-torn country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Blinken spoke during a joint news conference in Washington with the foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“What we’ve not done and we do not intend to do is to express any support for efforts to normalize relations or rehabilitate Mr. Assad or lift a single sanction on Syria or change our positions to oppose the reconstruction of Syria,” Blinken said when asked whether the US endorses that some Arab countries are resuming normal ties with Assad’s government.

He stressed this policy will not change “until there is irreversible progress toward a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital.”

Syria erupted into a civil war after Assad in 2011 began a crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule.

The United States and most European countries shut their embassies in Damascus after the government's bloody crackdown on protests.

Since then, the Syrian President has repeatedly rejected ties with the United States and other countries that support Syrian rebels, whom he calls “terrorists”.

Syria's government refers to all those who oppose it as "terrorists", including both jihadist rebels as well as rebels considered by the West to be “moderate”.

After years of tensions, however, some Arab countries recently began improving relations with Syria.

Assad and King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke over the phone last week for the first time since 2011, while Syria’s defense minister last month visited Jordan and met with Jordanian military officials.

Jordan reduced diplomatic relations with Syria, like most Arab countries, following the start of the civil war there in 2011, hosted western-backed opposition groups and took in hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In 2014, Jordan expelled the Syrian ambassador, citing “continued offensive statements, through his personal contacts or writing in the media and the social media against the kingdom.”

Syria later retaliated by expelling the Jordanian ambassador from Damascus.