The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz who is also Minister of Defence and the Second Deputy Prime Minister held talks with his counterparts from the US, Britain, Italy, Germany and France respectively. Prince Mohammed met Ashton Carter, Michael Fallon, Roberta Pinotti, Ursula von der Leyen and Jean-Yves Le Drian individually whilst heading the Saudi delegation at the meeting for defence ministers of the international coalition against ISIS at the headquarters of NATO in Brussels yesterday. Bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and the countries mentioned, especially with regards to defence, were discussed and views on important issues were expressed during the international coalition’s meeting.
The adviser to the Saudi Minister of Defence Brigadier Ahmad Asiri said that Saudi Arabia’s decision to take part in ground operations against ISIS on Syrian land is “irreversible” in Brussels yesterday. He added that details of methods, mechanisms and the size of participating forces will be decided at forthcoming meetings.
Carter opened the defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels with his counterparts from 49 countries by calling on participating countries to contribute more in terms of arms and troops to implement the coalition’s “military campaign plan” against ISIS which aims to retrieve the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria first.
The Czech Defence Minister Martin Strupenk also welcomed the Saudi move to fight ISIS. In response to questions from a handful of journalists including an Asharq Al-Awsat reporter on the side lines of the defence ministers’ meetings, he pointed out that “the Saudi proposal to send in ground troops is an extremely positive matter”. He added that “we must play a role (in resolving the crisis) and we must move in this direction, and if there is an active force such as Saudi Arabia in the region, then this is a very positive matter”.
Meanwhile, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) began in the German city yesterday. It will be attended by the foreign ministers of 15 countries to discuss the Syrian crisis nearly two weeks after the suspension of Geneva 3 negotiations between the Syrian sides as a result of developments on the ground and the escalation of the Russian and Syrian regimes’ military campaign in the countryside of Aleppo.
A trilateral meeting was also held on the side lines of the conference in which the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiating’s Committee (HNC) led by its general coordinator Riad Hijab participated. Sources from the Syrian opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting was positive and added that Kerry reassured Hijab that “Aleppo willl not fall”. The sources also said that the Americans are pushing for a ceasefire proposed by Russia but the opposition prefers a two week truce in order to carry out humanitarian operations.