Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that ongoing discussions are focused on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “will step down at the beginning of the transitional stage or whether he will stay in Syria without any powers or privileges.”
Jubeir insisted on the need to “know the end” of the political process, and [to know] that “the Geneva I principles are meaningless as the [option] of Assad leaving power in Syria was rejected.”
Speaking to Al-Hayat on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Jubeir stressed that Assad should not have “any powers,” and this can be achieved by forming a committee for the transitional stage. This committee would enjoy full executive powers, a step that he [Jubeir] considered to be one of the Geneva I principles.
About Russia opposing this principle, he said that “the solution does not depend on Russia,” as according to this principle, “Assad does not have any role in the future of Syria. [The principle] also stipulates protecting the civil and military institutions in Syria, in order to avoid chaos and collapse, to allow the Syrian government to maintain security and provide services to its people, and to fight extremism.” Jubeir confirmed that there is no dispute about this.
He indicated that the dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia is about two issues, namely the position toward the Syrian crisis and “the Iranian provision of arms.” He also said that the bilateral relations with Russia “should be further expanded,” as “Russia and Saudi Arabia’s economic and political [influence] are not in line with the [type] of relations between both parties.”
Jubeir revealed there are “common interests [between both countries] in the oil and agriculture [fields], in addition to the understanding about the Palestinian cause.” He also mentioned “other several issues upon which we can build relations.”
Jubeir added that Iran “has become an occupying force in Syria,” and that “it has already sent thousands of Quds Force fighters and Shiite militias, such as [members] of Hezbollah and other militias from the region, to support Assad’s regime.”
According to Jubeir, “If Iran wants to play a role in finding a political solution in Syria,” it ought to withdraw its forces and militias from Syria. He noted that this is “not a condition, rather, it is the most important role Iran can play in helping Syria get over its ongoing crisis.”
Regarding the dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he said, “The issue is linked to Iran’s actions, not words,” referring to the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries that have been facing, since the Iranian revolution, the hostile policies of Iran that “interferes in the region’s affairs in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It is also trying to smuggle explosives to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while seeking to build cells inside Arab countries with the goal of destruction.”
He added that Iran “is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it is working on destabilizing the region. If it wants to build good relations with its neighbors, it ought to deal with them based on the good neighborliness principle and not to interfere in their affairs. We [would] welcome such a step.”
Jubeir called on Iran to specify whether it is a “state or a revolution,” and if it wants to export its revolution and revive the Persian Empire — as described by prominent Iranian officials — we cannot deal with it.”
Jubeir said that he is not expecting a change in the US-Iranian relations as “expected by some analysts in the region,” since the US “still sees Iran as the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
About the situation in Yemen, Jubeir pointed to “promising indicators, and to attempts by the UN envoy, which I think will yield results.” He stressed that “at the end, there will be a political solution. We are optimistic that if Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces realize that their project will fail in Yemen, they can then accept the political process.”
He added, “The aim is to restore legitimacy, and to defend Saudi Arabia, while eliminating the danger posed by the missiles and planes on Saudi Arabia as well as paving the way to a political solution in Yemen.” Jubeir insisted that “the solution in Yemen should be political, not military.”
He also warned Houthis that “any hostile action on their part will be met with a counter-reaction. If they want peace, the door is wide open. The solution is known, and it is based on the Gulf initiative, the results of the Yemeni national dialogue and the Security Council Resolution 2216.”