Kerry: Saudi Arabia doesn't trust US policy on Syria

Published October 23rd, 2013 - 06:27 GMT
US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the Saudi Arabian government have serious misgivings about the US' policy in Syria. (AFP/File)
US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the Saudi Arabian government have serious misgivings about the US' policy in Syria. (AFP/File)

Secretary of State John Kerry admitted ally Saudi Arabia didn't trust U.S. policy on Syria, as a key Saudi royal family member called the policy a farce.

The acknowledgment of Saudi criticism came as the Saudi-supported leader of Syria's main Syrian opposition coalition said the group would not participate in proposed international peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, next month unless they're intended to bring about the Syrian regime's full transfer of power to the opposition, including President Bashar Assad's departure.

Assad, meanwhile, told a Lebanese TV station his regime wouldn't hold talks with the foreign-based opposition figures, who he called "mercenaries."

Kerry told reporters in London Tuesday he held multiple urgent talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris Monday amid increasingly vocal Riyadh complaints the Obama administration was doing too little to help the Sunni-dominated rebels -- particularly after President Barack Obama's Sept. 10 announced a decision not to launch a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime.

Obama said at the time he would instead pursue a Russian proposal for international monitors to take over and destroy Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons.

"We know that the Saudis were obviously disappointed that the [Syria] strike didn't take place," Kerry said after a meeting of foreign ministers from 11 countries that support a democratic transition in Syria and representatives of Syrian opposition groups.

"It is our obligation to work closely with them, as I am doing," Kerry said of Saudi Arabia, pointing to his Monday meetings with Faisal.

"The president asked me to come and have the conversations that we've had," Kerry said. "I think they were very, very constructive, and I am convinced we are on the same page as we are proceeding forward, and I look forward to working very closely with our Saudi friends and allies."

Other topics Kerry discussed with Faisal were Saudi concerns the Obama administration botched its Egypt policy by working with the Muslim Brotherhood and fears Washington would cut a deal with Iran that could hurt Saudi interests, Kerry said.

"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Kerry told reporters.

Saudi Arabia's criticism of U.S. foreign policy became public over the weekend when its intelligence chief told European diplomats he planned to scale back U.S. cooperation to arm and train Syrian rebels, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The criticism ratcheted up Tuesday when Prince Turki al-Faisal, a leading member of the Saudi royal family, berated administration policy in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Turki told the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington the White House used Assad's pledge to give up chemical weapons as an "excuse" not to take forceful action to end Syria's bloody civil war.

"The current charade of international control over Bashar's chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also to help Assad to butcher his people," Turki said, in remarks quoted by the Journal.

Turki also chastised the administration for not using the U.N. Security Council to push through a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"If Mr. Obama dithers on what is needed to convince [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu to reach an accord, as he is doing on Syria, there will not be one," he said.


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