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Progress on Syria but no future role for Assad: Saudi FM

Saudi comments come a day after Russian foreign minister urged fresh Syrian elections in which it appears Assad would run
US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia in Diriyah Farm, Saudi Arabia, on 24 October 2015 (AFP)

Saudia Arabia's foreign minister insisted on Sunday that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad should have no role in Syria's "future," adding there had been some progress in international talks on resolving the conflict.

Adel al-Jubeir made the comments after meeting his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, and a day after Saudi Arabia and the US called for more international efforts to restore stability in Syria without Assad.

They also come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday urged fresh Syrian elections, saying Assad had discussed the potential for polls during his visit to Moscow last week. On Sunday, a Russian MP visiting Damascus said Assad had suggested he would run in the elections "if the people are not against it".

But Jubeir made it clear on Sunday that for Saudi Arabia, which supports anti-Assad rebels while opposing Iranian and Russian military intervention on his behalf, that Assad has no future in Syria.

"We are committed to implementing the principles of Geneva to establish a transitional authority that installs a constitution and directs the government and military ahead of elections," he said.

"And Bashar al-Assad will have no role in Syria's future. That is the position of the kingdom and that is the position of most countries in the world."

Russia launched its own campaign of air strikes on 30 September in response to a request from Damascus.

Washington, Riyadh and Ankara back groups fighting the government of Russian ally Assad, while Moscow says it is targeting the Islamic State group and other "terrorists" in Syria.

In recent days, Russia has appeared to gain some momentum in its military intervention in the Middle East, gaining authorisation from Iraqi officials to bomb Islamic State convoys in the country and also announcing an agreement with Jordan to coordinate their air operations over Syria.

Lavrov also said on Saturday that Russia was prepared to back the Free Syrian Army, a comment that seemed to contradict Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, who said the day before that Russia was unable to locate any "moderate" opposition fighters in Syria to support.

After talks on Friday in Vienna between Kerry and the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on ways to end the Syria conflict failed to make a breakthrough, Kerry said he hopes the group will reconvene as early as 30 October.

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