KSA, Turkey throw their weight behind Syrian opposition

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)

The Syria policy of Turkey and Saudi Arabia is based on a shared perspective, said Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Sunday.

It followed his talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman during which they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed regional issues of common concern.

The king and Davutoglu also discussed a range of regional and international developments with special reference to Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and terrorism.

After holding talks with senior Saudi officials, Davutoglu said: “Turkey and Saudi Arabia will continue to support moderate opposition groups in Syria.”

Al-Jubeir said the talks between the king and Davutoglu were positive and constructive.

Al-Jubeir said that he discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkish officials, ways and means of combating terrorism and Iran, besides exchanging notes on a range of bilateral and international issues.

He said that “the Kingdom would support the Syrian opposition whether it stays in peace talks in Geneva or not.”

Al-Jubeir said the talks should focus on a transfer of power away from Bashar Assad … a new constitution and new elections, and a new Syria in which Assad has no role to play. “That’s what the Syrian opposition went to negotiate.” He added: “We support them if they choose not to negotiate. We support them if they choose to negotiate.”

Regarding Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian plane taking part in operations in Syria on Nov. 24, Al-Jubeir said: “We support Turkey’s right to defend its territory in the ways it sees fit.”

To this end, it is important to note that the visit of the Turkish premier will also boost joint cooperation especially after Saudi Arabia and Turkey recently agreed to form a strategic cooperation council. The aim of this council is to increase the strength of relations between the two countries, which will ensure security and stability in the region.

Referring to Davutoglu’s talks with senior Saudi officials, a diplomatic source said that the two sides discussed several regional issues, including Syria. The Geneva meetings on Syria mark the first step of the Vienna Process initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavroav, with regional representatives from Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others, on board.

But Riad Hijab, the leading figure in the High Negotiations Committee, which brings together representatives of the mainstream political opposition and rebel groups, said in an online statement that without UN and international pressure on the Syrian government there would be no justification for the main Saudi-backed opposition group to remain in Geneva.

Hijab was not among the group that arrived in Geneva and his comments came after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Riyadh, where Hijab was quoted as expressing his concern about the intensifying aerial bombing on Syrian cities and refugee camps.

He said that the delegation had traveled to Geneva only after they received written and verbal assurances from world powers that humanitarian issues would be addressed.

During his stay in Riyadh, Davutoglu also met with a number of Saudi businessmen led by Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, president of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC). The two sides focused on ways and means to promote economic and commercial relations between the two countries, especially in the fields of investment.

During the meeting, Davutoglu called on Saudi businessmen to increase their investments in his country and establish joint ventures for the development of the existing cooperation. Trade exchange between the Kingdom and Turkey exceeded SR21 billon in 2015.

Starting his trip in Jeddah before proceeding to the Holy City of Makkah, the Turkish premier made his way to Riyadh to meet with King Salman and senior Saudi officials.

Davutoglu is accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Ministers Yalcın Akdogan and Lutfi Elvan, Economy Minister Mustafa Elitas, Interior Minister Efkan Ala, and other top officials including National Intelligence Agency chief Hakan Fidan.


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