Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says his country will continue supporting the Takfiri militant groups operating to topple the Damascus government as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in power.
Speaking on the sidelines of the international peace talks on the Syria crisis in Vienna, Austria, on Saturday, Jubeir said the Riyadh regime only backs a political process that envisages President Assad’s removal from power.
“We will support the political process that will result in him (Assad) leaving or we will continue to support” Syria’s foreign-backed opposition in order to topple the Syrian leader “by force,” said the top Saudi diplomat.
The fresh round of talks on the Syria crisis opened in Vienna on Friday and ended on Saturday. Senior representatives from 17 countries, the United Nations, European Union as well as the Arab League were in attendance.
According to an official statement issued at the end of the meeting, the world diplomats seeking to find a solution to the Syria crisis would meet again in “approximately one month” to review progress towards a ceasefire and the start of a political process in the crisis-hit country.
The participants also agreed on a set calendar for a transition government in Syria within six months and elections in 18 months.
The parties to the international peace talks in Syria remain at loggerheads over the role that Assad would play in Syria’s political process.
While some countries, including the US and its allies, press for the removal of Assad as part of a solution to the Syrian crisis, others, notably Iran and Russia, say only the Syrian nation can decide over the matter.
Saudi Arabia has long been among the major supporters of the terror groups operating against the Syrian government since March 2011. The violence fueled by the foreign-backed Takfiris has so far claimed over 250,000 lives.
The previous round of talks on the crisis in Syria was held in the Austrian capital on October 30. At the end of the day-long talks, the participants agreed on respecting Syria’s national unity and sovereignty as well as uprooting terrorism in the violence-plagued Arab country.
Jubeir had repeated the same comments ahead of the October 30 round of Vienna talks, saying Riyadh sees no role for Assad in Syria’s political future.
However, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi lashed out at the Saudi official for his statements, saying Riyadh is not qualified to participate in efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria as the kingdom is shedding the blood of people elsewhere.
Jubeir “who has no clue how diplomacy and politics work, should keep his mouth closed and keep his country out of a matter that is none of its business,” Zoubi added.
Europe sees Vienna talks positive
European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has described as “very good” the latest round of international talks on the Syrian conflict in Vienna.
“The process can definitively start” toward reaching a settlement for the nearly five-year conflict in Syria, Mogherini told journalists at the end of the day-long talks held in the Austrian capital on Saturday.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said the Vienna meeting had resulted in an agreement to convene meetings between the opposition and the incumbent Damascus government, and enforce a ceasefire by January 1.