Saudis say Assad should leave power or will be forced out

Saudi Arabian foreign minister says Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad will leave power either by political process or by military force

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 9, 2016 in this handout photo provided by Saudi Press Agency.

Updated Mar 11, 2016

Bashar al Assad must leave his position, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a press conference in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Al-Jubeir made the remarks after a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to discuss various regional issues.

"Here are the choices for Syria's al-Assad. He could choose to leave power either through a political process which is the easiest and quickest way to end the pain of war in Syria. Alternatively, the Syrian people will continue to fight until they oust him," said al-Jubeir.

In a joint statement, the ministers expressed their support for a political solution in Syria and the importance of keeping Syria's territories unified.

They also urged the UN Security Council to develop a process that could impose a more effective cease-fire in Syria.

The war-torn country has been experimenting with a fragile cessation of hostilities since Feb. 27 following a major agreement brokered by the US and Russia.

The cessation of hostilities in Syria is open-ended in the view of the United Nations and the major powers, the UN's envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday, brushing off a widespread perception that the cessation needed renewing after two weeks.

The United Nations hopes the agreement, which is less binding than a formal ceasefire and was not directly signed by the warring sides in Syria, can precede a more formal ceasefire.

In addition, the Saudi kingdom stands ready to improve its bilateral relationship with Iran if the country changes its policies in the Middle East and the greater Muslim world, the Saudi foreign minister declared.

"If Iran changes its way and its policies, nothing would prevent Saudi Arabia from turning a page and building a better relationship with Iran on the basis of good neighbourliness, not meddling in domestic affairs of others, and not stirring up religious divergences in the Islamic world," al-Jubeir said.

The ministers reiterated their rejection of Iran's interference in the region and required Iran to stop its support for the Lebanese Shiite organisation Hezbollah, which has recently been listed as a terrorist group by the GCC.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have opposing political stances in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Yemen where Iran, the Shiite powerhouse of the Middle East, supports Shiite allies and groups against Sunni groups or governments.

Iran has a majority Shiite population while Saudi Arabia has a predominantly Sunni demography.

TRTWorld, Reuters