Saudi Arabia has proposed a new initiative to end the conflict in Syria that would see Iran and its proxy Hezbollah pull their fighters from the country, al-Hayat reported Saturday.
Citing “high-level Saudi sources,” the pan-Arab newspaper said that in return for an Iranian and Hezbollah withdrawal, Riyadh would end its support for the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad in a bloody civil war now in its fifth year. This would then pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections under the supervision of the United Nations.
The report said that Saudi Arabia hosted Assad’s security adviser and close confidant Ali Mamlouk in July, a meeting that came some three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in St. Petersburg with Saudi Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman.
According to the report, Russia believes that Saudi support for the Syrian opposition has fueled the violence in the country, while Riyadh says it is ready “to do anything to stop the Syrian bloodshed.”
Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem met Wednesday with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran to discuss the war in Syria, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported. A short time earlier, Moallem also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who landed in the Iranian capital that same day.
Like the Syrian regime, Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy in the region, receiving funds and arms from the Islamic Republic, and has dispatched thousands of fighters to support the embattled Assad.
The Arab world has been polarized for years in a worsening proxy conflict between Iran and Gulf powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, fueling Sunni-Shiite tensions and stoking wars.
In Syria, Iran’s support has ensured the survival of Assad against Sunni rebels backed by Gulf nations in the devastating civil war.
Tariq al-Shammari, a Saudi analyst and president of the Council of Gulf International Relations, told the Associated Press last month that following the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, Gulf Arab countries will work to try to keep Tehran isolated politically and economically, noting that Saudi Arabia in particular has already moved to improve ties with Russia, a strong ally of Iran.
AP contributed to this report