Moscow, Sochi and Dubai, Reuters/Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince on Sunday expressed the Kingdom’s concerns regarding Russia’s military intervention in Syria, during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the meetings, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is also the Kingdom’s Minister of Defense, reiterated Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a political solution to the Syrian crisis, based on the outcomes of the Geneva Communiqué.
The communiqué, the result of a Syrian peace conference held in Geneva in June 2012, stipulates that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad must quit in place of a transitional government which will include Syrian opposition figures.
Moscow’s military intervention in Syria will have “dangerous consequences,” escalating the war there and inspiring militants from around the world to join in, senior Saudi officials accompanying Prince Salman told Russia’s leaders on Sunday, a Saudi source said.
Saudi Arabia will continue to strengthen and support the moderate opposition in Syria, the source said.
“The Russian intervention in Syria will engage them in a sectarian war,” the source said on Monday.
“The recent escalation will contribute in attracting extremists and jihadists to the war in Syria,” the source said, adding that the Kremlin’s actions would also alienate ordinary Sunni Muslims around the world.
Prince Salman and the delegation urged Russia to help fight terrorism in Syria by joining the existing US-led coalition comprising more than 20 nations that is battling Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, the source said.
“Assad should leave and the Saudis will continue strengthening and supporting the moderate opposition in Syria,” the source said.
Moscow’s intervention has infuriated Assad’s regional foes, including Saudi Arabia, who say Russian airstrikes have been hitting rebel groups opposed to the Syrian leader and not just the ISIS fighters Moscow says it is targeting.
Speaking after the meetings, which took place on the sidelines of the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said both countries were willing to cooperate in Syria to prevent the spread of extremist groups.
“On both sides, as far as I can tell, there is an understanding that today’s meeting can advance our cooperation,” he said.
Lavrov acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s “concerns” about Russia’s intervention in Syria but reiterated that Moscow was only targeting extremist groups.