SOCHI, Russia: Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to discuss steps to establish a peace process in war-torn Syria.
The deputy crown prince voiced Saudi Arabia’s keen interest in realizing the peaceful aspirations of the Syrian people and reiterated its support to solve the Syrian crisis in accordance with the resolutions of the Geneva 1 conference.
Speaking after the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both countries were willing to cooperate in Syria and wanted to prevent the formation of a “terrorist caliphate”.
Lavrov said: “On both sides, as far as I can tell, there is an understanding that today’s meeting can advance our cooperation.”
Lavrov acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had “concerns” about Russia’s aims but said it was targeting only extremists, including Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra, a group linked to Al-Qaeda.
“We expressed our concerns that these operations could be regarded as an alliance between Iran and Russia,” said Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir.
“But in the conversation, our Russian friends explained to us that the main aim is the fight with Daesh and terrorism,” he added.
The meeting on the sidelines of the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi also discussed bilateral ties, Lavrov added.
Al-Jubeir, who appeared alongside Lavrov, said Riyadh is concerned over military operations in Syria and that Riyadh wants to find common grounds with Russia to guard unity of Syria. Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom would increase cooperation with Russia to fight “terrorism.”
Al-Jubeir said Riyadh wants to see a transitional government in Syria, which will eventually lead to the end of the Bashar Assad regime.
Russia expressed readiness to increase military cooperation with Saudi Arabia on Syria
Earlier, Putin said Russia would not deploy ground troops to Syria. “We are not planning on doing this (conducting a ground operation), and our Syrian friends know about this,” Putin said speaking to the state-run Rossiya-1 channel. He also said Russia does not want to get involved in an inter-religious war in Syria.
Putin brushed off criticism by the US-led coalition that the Russian air force was not providing it with sufficient advance notice prior to conducting strikes.
“I want to draw attention to the fact that nobody has ever warned us in the planning and beginning of operations of this kind,” Putin said. “But we did.”