Manama Dialogue: Saudi FM denies Riyadh is changing alliances, says relations with US are ‘ironclad’

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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (AN photo/Ziyad Alarfaj)
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US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
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US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
Updated 27 October 2018
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Manama Dialogue: Saudi FM denies Riyadh is changing alliances, says relations with US are ‘ironclad’

  • All Saudis held in Khashoggi investigation will be investigated and prosecuted in the kingdom, confirms Al-Jubeir
  • US Defense Sec. Mattis stresses ‘strong partnership’ between US and KSA is maintained, Khashoggi case ‘a concern for all’

MANAMA: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Saturday denied media reports that Saudi Arabia intended to shift its alliance away from the United States and the West.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a strategic relationship with the United States that goes back to the 1930s, it was enshrined by a meeting with the late King Abdulaziz and late Franklin Roosevelt,” Al-Jubeir said.

“That relationship is ironclad.  Saudi Arabia has been an ally of the Western countries since the beginning of the third Saudi state … it’s not going to change.
“Friends come and go but interests remain, this is how we look at our relationship with the West in general and the United States in particular.” 
Al-Jubeir’s comments came in response to a question by Arab News on the first day of the annual Manama Dialogue organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The foreign minister also praised the current US administration’s Middle East strategy, especially in relation to containing Iran.
President Donald Trump had been protecting US allies since he took office, a foreign policy that was both “rational and realistic,” Al-Jubeir said.


“He has defeated Daesh in Syria because he wasn’t hesitant about deploying force. He has defeated Daesh in Iraq, when it took years for the Obama administration to make any progress. He has put Iran on notice that business as usual cannot continue, and imposed sanctions against Iran.”
Addressing the murder this month in Istanbul of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the continuing investigation, Al-Jubeir said the Saudi government was committed to finding all the facts, and was working closely with the Turkish government to do so.
“We know a mistake was committed, we know that people exceeded their authority, and we are investigating them,” he said.
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death, and Turkey’s request for their extradition will not be granted, Al-Jubeir said. “The individuals are Saudi nationals, they are detained in Saudi Arabia, the investigation is in Saudi Arabia and they will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia.
“Unfortunately there has been hysteria in the media about Saudi Arabia’s guilt before the investigation is completed. Wait for the results of the investigation and then make a determination if the investigation is serious or not, but not from the get-go.” 
Earlier, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Khashoggi’s murder inside a diplomatic mission “must concern us all.” If any nation failed to adhere to international norms and the rule of law, it “undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” he said, but he also stressed the strength of Saudi-US relations: “We maintain our strong people-to-people partnership knowing that with our respect must come transparency and trust, as indicated by President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and European leaders alike.
“These two principles are vital to continued collaboration because we know that to remain committed, we’re going to have to continue transparency and security for all in this region.”


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.