Arab states need a new approach to Syria, says Saudi foreign minister

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said a consensus is forming in the Arab world that Syria’s isolation is not working and that a dialogue with Damascus is needed “at some point” to at least resolve humanitarian issues, including refugee returns to tackle.

Remarks by Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at a Munich security forum on Saturday mark a departure from the early years of Syria’s 12-year civil war, when several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, backed rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad .

“You will see that not only in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) but also in the Arab world there is a growing consensus that the status quo is not workable,” he said.

The minister said without finding a way to “maximum targets” for a political solution, a different approach is being “formulated” to address the problem of Syrian refugees in neighboring states and the suffering of civilians, especially after the devastating earthquake that struck hit Syria and Turkey.

“So that has to have a dialogue with the government in Damascus at some point to at least achieve the main goals, especially on the humanitarian side, refugee returns, etc.,” he said.

Asked about reports he would visit Damascus following visits by his Emirati and Jordanian counterparts following the earthquake, Prince Faisal said he would not comment on rumours.

Riyadh has deployed relief planes to government-held areas in Syria as part of earthquake relief efforts, after initially sending aid only to the opposition-held north-west of the country.

Shunned by the West, Assad has basked in a spate of support from Arab states that have normalized relations with him in recent years, most notably from the United Arab Emirates, which is targeting Arab influence in Syria to counter that of Iran.

Other Arab states remain cautious and US sanctions on Syria remain an aggravating factor.

Kuwait’s foreign minister told Reuters in Munich that his country is not negotiating with Damascus and is providing assistance through international organizations and Turkey.

When asked if that stance would change, Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah said, “We will not change at this point.”

Assad, with support from Russia, has regained control of most of Syria along with Iran and Iran-backed Shia Muslim groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.

(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai and John Irish in Munich; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button