Putin, Saudi King Discuss Syria Conflict

Putin, Saudi King  Discuss Syria ConflictPutin, Saudi King  Discuss Syria Conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Saudi Arabia's King Salman about finding a solution to the Syria crisis on Saturday, just two days before he is due to address the UN on the issue, the Kremlin said.

In a telephone conversation at Russia's behest, the two men "exchanged views on regional security matters, first and foremost, in the context of finding ways to settle the conflict in Syria", a statement posted to the Kremlin's website said, AFP reported.

They also discussed "building more effective international cooperation in the fight against the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups", it said.

Saudi Arabia is part of a US-led coalition that began an air campaign against IS in Syria last September, and insists it will never cooperate with the Syria government.

On Monday, Putin will address the General Assembly in New York to outline his plan for Syria, notably the idea of expanding a coalition, which would include Assad's army, to fight IS.

He will also meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the gathering, their first formal talk in two years.

Russia has lately boosted its military presence in Syria, deploying more troops and warplanes to an air base along with new arms deliveries to Syrian forces. Last week, the Syrian Army used Russian drones against the terrorists for the first time.

- 30,000 Foreign Fighters

About 30,000 fighters from over 100 countries joined militant groups in Syria and Iraq, primary the IS, since 2011.

over 250 US citizens traveled to the Middle East, including 150 fighters, that joined the militants during the last 12 months, Sputnik reported.

"Despite Pentagon reports that coalition strikes have killed about 10,000 Islamic State fighters, the group continues to replenish its ranks, drawing an average of about 1,000 fighters a month," the report stressed.

The IS, a radical group, has seized vast areas in Syria and Iraq, spreading radical ideology and committing numerous human rights atrocities, including beheading of religious minorities' representatives and foreign hostages posted online.

Washington has been leading a coalition of over 60 countries, conducting airstrikes against the positions of the militants in Iraq and Syria, since 2014.

Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian media that the US-led international coalition against IS had failed since the militant group has been shown to have expanded its operations in the country despite the air campaign.

- Ceasefire Broken

A ceasefire in northwest Syria, part of a wider deal that included cessation of hostilities in the area as well as in a town near the Lebanese border, has been broken after just one day, according to a monitoring group.

Shells apparently fired by rebel fighters hit the village of Fuaa in the province of Idlib on Saturday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said, after rebels blamed government forces for violating the ceasefire by dropping barrel bombs on an area nearby.

Warring sides had agreed on Friday a ceasefire in Fuaa and next-door Kafraya, two villages held by government forces and besieged by militants, as well as in the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border, where fighters are surrounded by government forces.

But shelling of Fuaa resumed, the observatory said, with no immediate casualties reported.