Russia, Saudi Arabia Agree  to Cooperate in Syria

Russia, Saudi Arabia Agree to Cooperate in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s defense minister have agreed that Moscow and Riyadh should pursue common goals in Syria, including national reconciliation and combating terrorists, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said.
Putin met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman for talks on the sidelines of a Formula 1 race in Sochi on Sunday. The meeting was also attended by the foreign ministers of both states, RT reported.
“The sides confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Russia have similar goals concerning Syria,” said Lavrov following the talks. “First of all, they are to prevent a terrorist caliphate from getting the upper hand in Syria.”
The second goal that we share with Riyadh is “ensuring the triumph of national reconciliation in Syria so that all Syrians, regardless of their nationality or religion, will feel masters of their land,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expressed Riyadh’s concerns about the targets of Russia’s military operations in Syria.
In turn, Putin said Moscow understands the Saudi concern and expressed readiness to cooperate and share intelligence, according to Lavrov.
“On our part, we expressed readiness, which was met with a positive response from the successor to the crown prince, to begin close cooperation between our militaries and security services in order to eliminate any doubts that the targets of the Russian Air Force are IS militants, Al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist organizations,” he said.
“During the talks, Saudi Arabia expressed readiness to intensify its efforts to cooperate with Russia with regard to anti-terrorist operations,” Jubeir said.
Though sharing views on reaching a speedy political resolution in Syria, Russia and Saudi Arabia have different stances with regard to President Bashar Assad’s future as president.
Russia has reiterated that Assad should remain in power, Lavrov said, adding that this does not prevent launching a process for resolving political differences. Riyadh believes that Assad must step down for there to be a political transition in Syria, Jubeir said.
Lavrov said Russia calls on “all external players who can influence political processes in Syria to promote the soonest launch of a nationwide dialogue in Syria.”

 Syrian Troops Gains
Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes have advanced against fighters in the center of the country, as Russian President Vladimir Putin defended. Moscow says its airstrike would aid efforts to reach a political settlement.
Putin said his country’s objective was to stabilize the Syrian government and create conditions for a political compromise. He also called on other countries to “unite efforts against this evil”.
“When a division of international terrorists stands near the capital, then there is probably little desire for the Syrian government to negotiate, most likely feeling itself under siege in its own capital,” he said in an interview with Russian state television broadcast on Sunday.
Fighting on Sunday was on multiple fronts in the northern part of the central Hama province and the nearby militant-held Idlib province.
A Syrian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, told AP that troops have seized the northern Hama village of Tak Sukayk.
The reported advance comes a day after Syrian troops, backed by a Russian air cover, retook two other strategic towns in Sahel al-Ghab, where the IS was not known to have presence.

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