Riyadh, Moscow explore diplomatic fix for Syria
Saudi Arabia and Russia discussed Monday prospects of reaching a diplomatic solution to the three-year-old Syrian crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 and left millions of Syrians homeless.
“Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held talks on telephone on ways to end the Syrian crisis and other crises in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
“The conversation focused on the key issues on the regional and global agenda,” the press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “Particular attention was paid to the task of political and diplomatic resolution of the crisis in Syria,” the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The press service added that the top diplomats also touched upon the issues of bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic and energy sectors.
Political analyst Badr Almotawa welcomed the move to settle the Syria crisis diplomatically in order to end the country’s human catastrophe. However, he said the settlement required an international deal involving big powers including US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt.
“I believe that Saudi Arabia will not allow the continuation of Assad and prominent regime figures in power,” he told Arab News. “Russia and Iran are presenting a solution keeping Assad in power. This will not work,” he added.
In an effort to settle the Syrian crisis, an international peace conference on Syria dubbed Geneva II was organized by Russia and the United States, which was held on Jan. 22 in Montreux, Switzerland.
No particular progress was reported after two rounds were held in January and February of 2014. The parties to the Syrian conflict agreed to continue their discussions. The so-called Geneva I meeting was held less than two years ago and resulted in the signing of the Geneva Communiqué on June 30, 2012.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad, meanwhile, announced an unprecedented prisoner amnesty on Monday, less than a week after his re-election, the most wide-ranging since the beginning of the revolt against him.
Announced five days after Assad was re-elected with nearly 90 percent in a ballot decried as a “farce” by the opposition and the West, the amnesty is the first extended to those accused under a controversial anti-terrorism law. The July 2012 law has been used to jail tens of thousands of regime opponents, armed and unarmed.
There are an estimated 100,000 people in custody for activities related to the uprising, which began in March 2011.