JEDDAH – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Jeddah today, Sunday May 15, to discuss the fragile truce in Syria. Noting that Kerry will travel to Russia next week for what he described as possibly the best opportunity in years to end the civil war in Syria after Moscow’s announcement of a partial withdrawal of its forces from the country.
The latter will also have talks with Iran and other countries in Vienna on Tuesday, where Kerry looks forward to have a settlement between pro-Syrian government and rebels, as well as to increase humanitarian aid deliveries to besieged areas.
The latter has already expressed his hopes in regard of Saudi Arabia’s meeting on Friday, as he stated that meeting with the king and the Saudi interior and defence ministers – the two most senior princes – would try “to make sure that we can get this cessation better footed and, frankly, better observed and implemented throughout the country.”
While rebels against al-Assad authority is backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia and some other Western and Gulf states plus Turkey, still diplomats in the Gulf say Saudi Arabia sees U.S. support for the rebels as insufficient, and worries that Washington may abandon their common deal that Assad must immediately leave power.
Kerry and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir have previously characterized disagreements over Syria as being limited to “tactical differences” not objectives.
As for the meeting on Tuesday, Kerry told reporters that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow and argued that a cessation of hostilities was largely holding as peace talks resumed in Geneva this week.
“Today, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the start of this horrific war, we may face the best opportunity that we have had in years to end it,” said Kerry, who welcomed Russia’s announcement on Monday that it planned to pull out the main part of its forces from Syria.