Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated on Saturday the importance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leaving at the beginning of a political transition, not at the end.
“For us it is very clear it’s at the beginning of the process, not at the end of the process, it’s not going to be 18 months,” Jubeir said during a visit to France.
Al-Jubeir has previously said that Assad “will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”
His comments came days before the United Nations plans to reconvene peace talks to try to end the five-year-old civil war in Syria.
The United States and other Western governments that were previously demanding Assad’s early departure have quietly shied away from that call as his position has been reinforced by Russia’s military involvement in Syria since last September.
Jubeir also said Saudi Arabia will take delivery of French arms it originally ordered for Lebanon.
In February, Saudi Arabia suspended a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army in response to the country’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. A Saudi official source said Lebanon had not joined in condemning the attacks at two recent summits because Beirut had come under pressure from Lebanon’s powerful Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah.
“We made the decision that we will stop the $3 billion from going to the Lebanese military and instead they will be rediverted to the Saudi military,” Jubeir told journalists during a visit in Paris.
“So the contracts (with France) will be completed but the clients will be the Saudi military”.