Russian President Vladimir Putin met both with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al Nahyan on Sunday. Talks mainly revolved around the possibility of a political solution and cooperation in Syria.
“I welcome the opportunity to talk about ... the situation in the region, particularly in light of recent terrorist acts in Turkey,” Putin told Prince Mohammad on the sidelines of the Russian Grand Prix in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Russia started its air strikes in Syria on September 30, with initial aim of battling ISIS militancy, however, in time the Russian intentions in Syria appeared to be only protecting Bashar al Assad regime, withering authorities.
Following Salman and Putin’s meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “both countries were willing to cooperate and wanted to prevent the formation of a terrorist caliphate.”
“On both sides, as far as I can tell, there is an understanding that today’s meeting can advance our cooperation,” Lavrov said.
“After today’s talks, we understand better how to move toward a political solution.”
Most of Russia’s strikes in Syria, target the Syrian opposition and local factions fighting Assad regime and its allies, rather than ISIS.
Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have been clear in their anti-Assad stance, given the fact that the majority of the Syrians since 2011 have been killed by Assad’s forces.
Lavrov said his country only targets “extremist groups” that include ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate-Al Nusra Front. He also said Russia acknowledges Saudi “concerns” about Russia’s aims in Syria.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said his country hopes talks with Russia would continue.
“We expressed our concerns that these operations could be regarded as an alliance between Iran and Russia,” Jubeir said.
“But in the conversation, our Russian friends explained to us that the main aim is the fight with ISIS and terrorism.”
Lavrov to meet UN’s Staffan de Mistura
According to RIA Novosti, the Russian international news agency, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura on Tuesday, however the report did not make it clear where the talks would take place and whether or not de Mistura will visit Russia.
Syrian National Coalition said any talks proposed by de Mistura would automatically be boycotted.
“The National Coalition has decided not to participate in the consultative working groups and considers adherence to the Geneva communique and UN Security Council resolutions and an end to Russian aggression to be the basis for the resumption of the negotiation process,” it said in a statement.
Geneva communique is a feasible agreed upon roadmap for Syria’s conflict, the document was formed a peace conference in 2012, and contains the “formation of a transitional governing body with executive powers.”
Saudi Arabia’s al Jubeir also sees the 2012 communique as a reasonable guide for any possible talks over Syria’s political future. Naturally the opposition sees no place for Assad in that future, whereas the regime sees no future without Assad in it.
Russia and Iran have been backing the Syrian regime since the beginning of the four-year war in Syria which claimed more than 250,000 Syrians, whilst, half of the country’s population are displaced internally or in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and in Europe.
The National Council also condemned the Russian presence in Syria, saying its not compatible with Moscow’s Security Council membership and role as a party to peace talks in Syria.
“Russia’s aggression represents a violation of international law and support for the regime in killing civilians, committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity,” the Coalition said. The air campaign “undermines the chances of success of any political settlement.”
Syrian regime advances with the aid of Russian air strikes
Backed by Russian air strikes, Syrian regime forces advanced against opposition fighters in the centre of the country, capturing northern Hama village of Tak Sukayk. An anonymous Syrian military official, confirmed those reports to the AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said regime troops, accompanied by Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah recaptured the town of Al Bahsa in Sahel al Ghab in the northwest of Hama.
Captured towns in Sahel al-Ghab have no recorded presence of ISIS.