Syrian President Bashar Assad must leave office at the start of a transition in his country, not at its culmination, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saturday, Reuters reported.
Speaking during a visit to France, Jubeir said: “For us it is very clear it’s at the beginning of the process, not at the end of the process, it’s not going to be 18 months.”
His comments came exactly a week after a US- and Russian-brokered ceasefire took hold in the war-torn country, reportedly bringing the violence to its lowest levels for more than a year.
The UN now is planning to make a fresh stab at peace talks suspended due to the fighting.
The UN’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said last week that he plans to call a new round of negotiations beginning on March 7 and lasting initially for three weeks.
The latest effort at talks were suspended in February without ever really getting started, in the face of relentless bombing by regime forces and key Damascus backer Russia. But de Mistura said the move to seal a ceasefire and increasing humanitarian aid since then had changed the dynamic.
Jubeir also said Saturday that Saudi Arabia would itself take delivery of a $3 billion arms deal from France initially destined for Lebanon. Riyadh recently announced it was withholding the delivery of weapons to Lebanon in protest over Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group allied to Saudi rival Iran that is fighting in support of the Syrian regime.
In light of positions taken by Hezbollah, the kingdom had conducted “a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic,” an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency last month.
AP and AFP contributed to this report