Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, siding with President Obama and opposing the official stance of Russia and Iran.
“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” he declared, adding:
There are two options for a settlement in Syria. One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power. This could be a more lengthy process and a more destructive process but the choice is entirely that of Bashar al-Assad.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the UN General Assembly to form a global coalition to destroy the radical Islamic groups in Syria that developed after the civil war began four years ago. But the Saudi Minister said any agreement that defends Assad is a “non-starter.”
“I think if the Russians were serious about fighting Daesh [ISIS], they could join the existing international coalition,” he said. “But for them to go out and insert forces into Syria … is a big step, and is an indication that their objective may be to prop up the Assad regime more than it is to fight Daesh.”
He also opposed Iran’s involvement in Syria, “describing Tehran as an ‘occupying power’ in Syria and accusing it of fomenting terrorism and extremism across the region.”
“We’ve been living in the Middle East all our lives,” he continued. “We’re not the ones meddling in the affairs of other countries. The Iranians are. So you should look at it as Iranian aggression against other countries in the region.”
It is not the first time Saudi Arabia turned down Russia. In the summer, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was working to amass support for Assad internationally, Jubeir told Lavrov the Saudi government will not join forces with Assad since his actions are a “key reason behind the emergence of [the] Islamic State.” The Turkish government and Secretary of State John Kerry also refused to join Russia.
A few hours before Putin spoke on Monday, President Obama insisted that Assad must be removed from power. He claimed:
Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL [Islamic State], but realism requires a managed transition away from Assad into a new leader and an inclusive government that recognizes that there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild.
“We’re told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that it’s the only way to stamp out terrorism or prevent foreign meddling,” he continued. “In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.”
Ten days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Assad is needed for Syria.
“Our focus remains on destroying ISIL and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria, which we believe cannot be achieved with the long-term presence of Assad,” he stated.