Russian, Saudi Leaders Discuss Syria Crisis

Russian, Saudi Leaders Discuss Syria Crisis Russian, Saudi Leaders Discuss Syria Crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin held phone talks on Monday with King Salman of Saudi Arabia focused on seeking a solution to the Syria crisis, the Kremlin said.

The call was a Saudi initiative, the Kremlin said in statement.

The two exchanged views on “all the questions associated with resolving the Syrian crisis, including four-way talks,” between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US, Turkish and Saudi counterparts, World Bulletin reported.

The four foreign ministers met in Vienna last Friday but failed to make any major breakthrough on how to end the Syrian conflict, with the sides sharply at odds on Assad’s future.

Washington and Riyadh are part of a US-led coalition that last year launched an air campaign targeting the IS group that controls swathes of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Russia launched its own aerial campaign on September 30 in response to a request from Damascus.

  Omani FM meets Assad

Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi has visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus amid a whirlwind of diplomatic activity to resolve the crisis. Oman is known to play a mediator’s role in the region.

Alawi and Assad talked in Damascus on Monday as regional and international actors mount a new offensive to reach a political solution to the five-year civil war.

Syrian state media SANA reported the two discussed “the ideas proposed at the regional and international levels to help resolve the crisis in Syria.”

Oman is known as a mediator in an otherwise tumultuous region fraught with crisscrossing rivalries and alliances. The Sultanate, a member of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, has maintained good relations with Iran and never broke diplomatic or political ties with Syria as did its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors.

Alawi’s visit brings up the prospect the country is trying to bridge differences between the players.

Syria’s foreign minister last traveled to Oman to meet Alawi in August, while the head of the Syrian political opposition was in Muscat earlier this month.

  Flurry of Diplomatic Activity

Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov talked on the phone again on Monday for the third time in as many days after meeting in Vienna last Friday with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Kerry said after the meeting in Vienna, the sides would try to meet this Friday again. Russia would like regional actors Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Iran included in future talks, but the Saudis have balked at sitting down with their regional rival, Tehran.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister in Egypt on Sunday said the Syria talks have moved the sides closer but that important differences remains, not least of which is the Saudi view Assad needs to step down.

Lavrov, in an interview on Saturday, in an apparent shift in policy mentioned the possibility of holding elections and reaching a political solution with all Syrians at the negotiating table, a suggestion that was categorically refused by Syrian rebels, who said Russia must stop bombing them and Assad must first step down.

Meanwhile, Assad reportedly told a Russian delegation on Sunday that elections could be held once all terrorist organizations had been “eradicated”.