Saudi Arabia, Russia in push for Syria solution

Updated 06 December 2013
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Saudi Arabia, Russia in push for Syria solution

MOSCOW: Saudi intelligence chief has held a new meeting in Russia with President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian conflict, the second closed-door encounter this year.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Prince Bandar bin Sultan discussed with Putin at the president’s suburban Moscow residence the situation in the Middle East and preparations for a Syria peace conference planned in January.
“There was a detailed exchange of views on the situation around Syria, including in the context of preparations for the Geneva II conference,” the Kremlin said, without giving further details.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also met Prince Bandar in Moscow to discuss the Syria peace conference.
“The emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that regional problems are solved on the basis of respect of the UN Charter and principles of international law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Lina Sobonina, a Russian political analyst and researcher, told Al Arabiya News Channel that the discussion could address President Bashar Assad’s future role in Syria. Russia might also invite Saudi Arabia to attend the Geneva II conference.
“Russia believes that the participation of all regional powers would be useful and necessary, including Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Sobonina said.
The US-Russian peace initiative dubbed Geneva II, which aims at bringing the Syrian regime and opposition representatives to the negotiating table in a bid to end the bloody 32-month war, is being planned for Jan. 22.
The opposition has agreed to attend the talks on condition that they lead to a transitional phase that excludes Assad and his regime.
But government officials and their backers in Iran and Russia insist there should be no preconditions, and Assad has also said he would be willing to stand for re-election in 2014.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad has said that no solution will be implemented without Assad’s approval.
“The Syrian (government) delegation at Geneva will be working under Assad’s directives, and any solutions proposed will have no impact unless Assad approves of them,” said in remarks in the Syrian press.
According to Muqdad, “in their closed meetings, Western leaders say there is no replacement for Assad.”
He also said that at Geneva 2, “we will gather around the table and we will discuss, without foreign interference ... and there will be an enlarged government.”


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.