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Russia will ‘fail to save’ Assad, says Al-Jubeir

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Sunday that Russia’s efforts to support Syrian President Bashar Assad will not succeed in keeping him in power.
Jubeir told a press conference in Riyadh that previous efforts to prop up Assad, including by Iran, had “failed.”
“Now, (Assad) has sought the help of Russia, which will fail to save him,” he said, urging Moscow to “end its air operations against the moderate Syrian opposition.”
Russia, Assad’s closest ally alongside Iran, began conducting airstrikes in September, targeting mainly rebels backed by the West, according to US officials.
Analysts believe that Russia’s military intervention in Syria has given Assad a new lease of life and has also deeply alarmed the West.
But Al-Jubeir said that “it is impossible for a man behind the killing of 300,000 innocent people... to remain” in power.
Assad’s departure “is a matter of time... sooner or later, this regime will fall, opening the way for building a new Syria without Bashar Assad,” he said .
He urged the Syrian regime to “immediately allow the entry of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Syria, end military attacks on innocent civilians... (and) begin a political transition in Syria.”
A 17-nation Syria Support Group, co-chaired by Russia and the United States, agreed on Friday to seek a “cessation of hostilities” within a week and dramatically ramp up humanitarian access to besieged towns.
Critics have said the deal is hobbled by the fact it does not include “terrorist” groups such as the Daesh group and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra, leaving room for Russia to continue attacks by claiming it is targeting jihadists.
The agreement followed a major offensive by Syrian government forces, backed by heavy Russian bombing and Iranian troops, on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

Saudi troop deployment in Syria
On the planned deployment of Saudi special forces in Syria, Al-Jubeir said it will depend on a decision by the US-led coalition fighting Daesh (Islamic State) militants.
“The Kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this coalition against Daesh in Syria — this US-led coalition — so the timing is not up to us,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday he expected both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send special operations forces to Syria to help local opposition fighters in their drive to retake the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday confirmed it had sent aircraft to NATO-member Turkey’s Incirlik air base for the fight against Daesh militants
Al-Jubeir said the timing of the mission or size of troops has yet to be worked out.
Major powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a pause in combat in Syria, but Russia pressed on with bombing in support of Assad, its ally. Assad has promised to fight until he regains full control of the country.
US President Barack Obama has ruled out sending US ground troops to Syria. But Turkey said that both Ankara and Riyadh would support a coalition ground operation.

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