Russia and Saudi Arabia have failed in talks on Tuesday to overcome their differences over the fate of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, a central dispute in the Syrian civil war that shows no sign of resolution despite renewed diplomatic efforts.
Russia is working to form a coalition that includes Assad, Moscow’s ally, to fight the Daesh that has seized large areas of territory in the north and east of Syria.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir stressed during talks in Moscow that Riyadh’s position on Assad’s fate has not changed and that he must step down.
“A key reason behind the emergence of Islamic State was the actions of Assad who directed his arms at his nation, not Islamic State,” Jubeir told reporters following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
He added that Assad is part of the problem and not part of the solution to the Syrian crisis, stressing that “there is no place for Assad in Syria’s future”.
Al-Jubeir and Lavrov said they had discussed convergence between various opposition groups to improve their chances in the fight against Islamic State.
“The talks are about … coordinating all those who are already fighting terrorists so that they put their main focus on fighting terrorism and leave for later settling scores between themselves,” Lavrov said in describing Russia’s proposal.
He said that anti-Islamic State forces united on the ground should have wide international backing. But Jubeir specifically ruled out any coalition with Assad and tension between the Russian and Saudi ministers was palpable during the conference.
However, Lavrov said that some “initial details” began to emerge with regards to the Russian proposal, but gave no further information.
Lavrov said Moscow would hold separate talks with Syrian opposition representatives in the coming days, including the Syrian National Coalition and Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union.
Moscow hopes to host another round of talks between Damascus and various Syrian opposition groups. Two rounds of similar talks did not achieve any breakthrough.
The two ministers also discussed possible Saudi purchases of Russian arms ahead of a planned visit by the Saudi king to Moscow.