x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Saudi call to help Syrians to 'defend themselves'

Prince Saud Al Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, yesterday urged Gulf states to mobilise their resources and help Syrians "defend themselves" against Bashar Al Assad's regime.

Anti-government protesters clap their hands as part of a funeral procession for Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al Assad, near Hama.
Anti-government protesters clap their hands as part of a funeral procession for Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al Assad, near Hama.

JEDDAH // Prince Saud Al Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, yesterday urged Gulf states to mobilise their resources and help Syrians "defend themselves" against Bashar Al Assad's regime.

At a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers in Jeddah, Prince Faisal called on GCC countries to "to use their resources to ... enable the Syrian people to defend themselves against the murderous and destructive machine of the government".

He did not elaborate but both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have previously called arms to be provided to the Syrian rebels.

"The killing and torture of civilians has continued," said Prince Faisal, adding that the GCC must find a "quick solution to this crisis".

The Syrian pro-government daily Al Watan on Monday accused Saudi authorities of "plotting" against Syria and of turning Lebanon into a springboard for attacking the country.

The newspaper accused the Saudi foreign minister personally of "sending arms to fighters and mercenaries they are financing in north Lebanon", where weekend clashes between pro- and anti-Assad factions left 14 people dead.

Prince Faisal called on Russia to change its stance on Syria and work to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

"The time has come for Russia to change its stance from supporting the Syrian regime to working to stop the killing and [supporting] a peaceful transition of power," Prince Saud told a news conference.

However, yesterday the leaders of Russia and China urged the international community to abide by Kofi Annan's road map for peace.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, arrived in Beijing yesterday and held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, ahead of a regional summit.

"On the Syrian issue, the two heads of state said the international community should continue to support the joint Arab League/UN special envoy Annan's mediation efforts and the UN monitoring mission, to promote a political solution to the problem in Syria," Chinese state television reported after a meeting between Mr Hu and Mr Putin.

The plan, however, appears to be on the verge of collapse, with the rebel Free Syrian Army declaring it was no longer adhering to an agreed ceasefire.