DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian presidency says President Bashar Assad has traveled to the United Arab Emirates, marking his first visit to an Arab country since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.
It said in a statement posted on its social media pages that Assad met on Friday with Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.
Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors after the conflict broke out 11 years ago.
The visit sends the clearest signal yet that the Arab world is willing to re-engage with Syria’s once widely shunned president.
The visit reportedly didn't sit well with the U.S. According to Reuters, the State Department said it was "profoundly disappointed and troubled" by the visit because it's an apparent attempt to legitimize Assad.
The U.N. saysmore than 350,000 people have died since the civil war in Syria began.