Saudi deputy crown prince ‘to discuss Syria with Putin in Russia visit’
BEIRUT // Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will discuss Syria with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, according to the pan-Arab Al Arabiya television news network.
Moscow and Riyadh have backed opposing sides in the country’s devastating six-year civil war, with Mr Putin supporting Syrian president Bashar Al Assad and the Saudis supporting Syria’s opposition.
Efforts to find an end to the war have so far failed and Mr Al Assad labelled the latest round of peace talks in Geneva earlier this month irrelevant. But there are hopes that foreign powers involved in the war, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey, Qatar and Iran, could eventually force a settlement.
Although rebel and government negotiators have failed to achieve a peace deal, a series of evacuation agreements on the ground in Syria have also provided hope that broader compromises are possible. On Monday, the evacuation deals continued with more than 1,000 people leaving the rebel-held Barzeh neighbourhood of Damascus for rebel territory away from the capital. But observers say the evacuation deals have largely favoured the Syrian government.
Prince Mohammed’s trip to Moscow comes just over a week after Saudi Arabia hosted US president Donald Trump in Riyadh. Before becoming president, Mr Trump had been critical of Washington’s friendly policies towards Saudi Arabia and its agreements to protect the kingdom. But by heading to Riyadh for the first international trip of his presidency, Mr Trump underlined that Saudi Arabia would remain the United States’s closest friend in the Arab world.
After Tuesday’s reported meeting with Mr Putin, Prince Mohammed, who is also Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, is due to head to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse