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Saudi Arabia backs Turkish action against Kurds in northern Syria

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir tells Ankara meeting his country is against giving Kurds a role in post-Assad Syria
An FSA soldier celebrates the fall of Jarabulus in northern Syria (Reuters)

ANKARA – Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Friday reiterated his country's full backing of Turkish military operations in northern Syria against IS and Kurdish militants, and suggested a military solution remained the strongest option to get rid of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.

Adel al-Jubeir dismissed remarks suggesting that Turkey had changed its approach on Syria since Binali Yildirim became Turkey's prime minister earlier this summer.  

“We fully support Turkey’s position," he said. "We have detected no change in Turkey’s position whether it be the fight against Daesh, the support of moderate rebels or the future vision of Syria,” Jubeir said during a talk at the SETA Foundation think-tank in Ankara.

He also said that the Assad government had rejected and made it impossible for any political solution to succeed - although many good solutions had been put forward in recent years and days.

A military operation, both to tackle IS and bring about the downfall of Assad, was something Saudi Arabia was willing to seriously consider, said Jubeir.

Asked about Turkey expanding its current military incursion into Syria toward Raqqa and the prospects of Saudi cooperation, Jubeir said: “We offered to send Saudi special forces under US command into Syria last year and that offer still stands.”

Jubeir said his country had made its position on Syrian Kurds 'very clear from the start' (AFP)

He was also eager to show his support for Turkey regarding its position on the Syrian-Kurdish PYD, which Ankara considers the terrorist extension of the PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for three decades.

“We support the Turkish position and have made it very clear right from the start. They are divisive and have a narrow-based agenda. We are against giving them a role,” he said.

Let down by US

Both countries feel let down by the US, their major ally. Turkey is furious that the US has opted to cooperate closely with the PYD’s armed wing the YPG in Syria and the Saudis see the nuclear deal with Iran as a major blow.

Jubeir was at pains to point out that Iran posed a real threat to regional stability and that there was no way it could become a negotiating partner until it changed its stance.

“Until Iran decides that it wants to be a nation state and not an exporter of sectarian revolution there is no way we or anyone can sit and negotiate with it,” he said.

Turkish-Saudi relations were strained before the death of former king, Abdullah, since Ankara and Riyadh backed opposite sides in Egypt.

After Salman became king there was a rapid thaw in relations between the two countries but Ankara has had to walk a fine line to balance ties with neighbouring Iran.

Although Turkey sided with Riyadh in all disputed between the Saudis and Iran since January 2015, it took care not to alienate Iran either.

Jubeir was keen to stress the common vision that Saudi Arabia and Turkey shared for the region, saying it could only strengthen strategic cooperation between the two countries.

“We share a common vision that sees a region free of sectarianism, a region committed to economic growth and to the betterment of its peoples,” he said.

The Saudi foreign minister was also keen to stress the common solutions both countries proposed for Syria.

“We fully back no-fly zones in the north and south of Syria. We back a safe zone.”

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