The United States is "never going to normalize" relations with Damascus, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk said on Thursday.
In a virtual seminar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, McGurk commented recent moves made by some countries in the Middle East to restore ties with Assad.
"We do not support normalization with the Assad regime. We are never going to normalize with the Assad regime," McGurk said. "We've been very clear with that."
McGurk added that the US is focusing on the humanitarian situation in Syria, maintaining the ceasefire, and fighting the ISIS group.
McGurk, who has held senior national security posts across the past four US presidential administrations, did not elaborate on whether the US was working to curb the efforts of its allies to re-establish ties with Assad, saying that "they have recognized the reality of the conflict as it exists now and are trying to protect and pursue their interests".
He noted, however, that distinctions needed to be made between security agreements with Syria's neighbors and discussions of normalization.
"If Jordan, a neighbor, wants to have a discussion about border security with Syria, obviously we're not going to say no," he said.
"That's very different than normalization with the Assad regime. And I think we ought to draw that distinction when we have these conversations."
His remarks also come after a letter from members of Congress was sent to the Biden administration earlier this month, which raised concerns that a number of Washington's allies in the Middle East are continuing to normalize relations with Assad without any meaningful pushback from the US.
The United Arab Emirates led the way, reopening its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, after severing ties in 2012.
Jordan's King Abdullah held a phone call with Assad, and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed paid a visit to Damascus last November.
McGurk told Carnegie on Thursday that while human rights was a focal point in the administration's policy approach, they do not trump other important national security issues.