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Saudi: We look forward to a Syria free from foreign forces

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks during a news conference in the desert kingdom's capital Riyadh on 15 November 2018. [Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images]
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir speaks during a news conference in Riyadh,Saudi Arabia on 15 November 2018 [Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia seeks a unified Syria free from foreign intervention, the kingdom's Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir  said this morning, according to the state-owned Al-Arabiya channel.

Speaking from a ministerial conference in Brussels, Al-Jubeir said he was consulting with other countries as to the implementation of UN Resolution 2254, which called for a political settlement in Syria.

"We look forward to a result that preserves Syria's independence and unity and leads to the removal of its foreign forces," Al-Jubeir said.

The reference to foreign intervention appears to be directed at Russia and Iran, who have backed Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the ongoing civil war.

However Saudi Arabia is rumoured to also have limited number of troops on the ground in Syria, supporting US-allied Kurdish militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as establishing two communications checkpoints in Qamshili and Hasakah. The kingdom is a major contributor to the Global Coalition Against Daesh and the second largest air force taking part in strikes against the terror group.

The Saudi government is also believed to be against the US withdrawal of troops from Syria, with diplomat Prince Turki Al-Faisal telling the BBC last month that the unprecedented plans would have a "very negative" impact.

READ: Erdogan says Turkey has maintained contacts with Damascus

Following his announcement that US troops were to withdraw from Syria, US president Donald Trump had claimed that Saudi Arabia had made new commitments to help rebuild the country, a statement denied by the Saudi embassy in Washington, who referred only to their $100 million already pledged for projects in the areas liberated from Daesh.

Riyadh has also denied reports that it plans to re-open its embassy in Damascus, after the UAE and Bahrain confirmed their embassies were once again operational. Several Arab states have sped up reconciliation efforts with the Syrian regime in recent months, as the government seems to emerge as the victor of the eight year conflict.

There have also been calls for Syria to return to the Arab League, with Algeria and Jordan joining Iraq and Lebanon in inviting President Al-Assad to attend the next summit scheduled to take place in March, eight years after Syria was suspended. The meeting, set to take place in Tunisia, would see the Assad government officially welcomed back into the fold.

However Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stated ruled out a normalisation of ties between the Syrian government and Qatar, stating that the emirate saw no reason to reopen its embassy in Damascus. Speaking to reporters at a press conferece, Al Thani slammed the suggestion that Qatar would mend relations with Al-Assad, whom he affirmed was "involved in war crimes".

He also addressed the issue of Syria returning to the Arab League, arguing that Qatar would continue to stand by its expulsion from the 22-member regional bloc.

The war in Syria has killed more than 560,000 people, the vast majority by regime-allied forces. The Al-Assad government has used chemical weapons against civilians on scores of occasions, with tens of thousands in prison facing torture and execution. Despite the regime calling for refugees to return to the country, over one million people are still listed as wanted on government databases, with those Syrians who supported the opposition fearing state reprisals.

Report: 197 civilians killed in Syria in January

Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaSyriaUS
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