Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — It is time for Russia to change its stance on Syria and work to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Foreign Minister, said here Tuesday.
“The time has come for Russia to change its stance from supporting the Syrian regime to working to stop the killing and (supporting) a peaceful transition of power,” he told reporters after a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting.
Such a policy change, he said, would “preserve (Russia’s) interests in Syria and the Arab World,” adding that he “hoped Russia would re-evaluate its policies in the region, especially with regard to Syria.”
Otherwise, “Moscow would lose a lot (of credibility) among the Arabs,” he said.
Russia has repeatedly blocked attempts by the UN Security Council to pass resolutions condemning President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and its deadly crackdown on dissent, actions Prince Saud said were “unjustifiable.”
His comments came in response to a question about remarks made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who said Moscow was prepared to see Assad leave power in a negotiated settlement. Gatilov said that Russia had “never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process,” aimed at ending 15 months of violence that has killed more than 13,500 people.
Addressing ministers at the start of Tuesday’s GCC meeting, Prince Saud said the Gulf states have begun to lose hope that international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan can end the violence in Syria.
He also called on the UN Security Council to put Annan’s plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, a measure that could authorize the use of force. The Annan plan calls for a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis after a ceasefire that has yet to take hold. “We have begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution ... within this framework,” Prince Saud said referring to the Annan initiative.
“The killing and torture of civilians has continued,” said Prince Saud, adding that the GCC must find a “quick solution to this crisis.”
He urged Gulf states “to use their resources to... enable the Syrian people to defend themselves against the murderous and destructive machine of the government.”
He did not elaborate but both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have previously called for the arming of the Syrian rebels.
“The killing and torture of civilians has continued,” said Saud, adding that the GCC must find a “quick solution to this crisis.”
On the contentious issue of Iran’s nuclear program, Prince Saud said it has increased threats to the Gulf region. He urged Tehran to cooperate with world powers to defuse tension after talks last month failed to achieve a breakthrough. “For sure the Iranian nuclear program has escalated the threat level in the region... So it is dangerous...,” Prince Saud said.
“We hope Iran, with all kinds of threats coming from it, changes its policy to protect a region that is Iran’s (as well). I cannot imagine Iran becoming the reason for the destruction of this region because it will be the biggest loser.”
Prince Saud also renewed criticism of Iran over its occupation of three strategic UAE islands. “There is a big crisis now in the Gulf caused by Iran’s occupation of the UAE islands and ... threats in general,” he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew the wrath of GCC states when he visited Abu Musa, the biggest of the three islands located near key oil shipping lanes at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Last week, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards paid a similar visit to the three islands where he met with military forces stationed there.
On other issues, the GCC meeting reiterated its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and urged strict enforcement of various decisions of regional and international anti-terror organizations.
The meeting lauded the first round of presidential elections in Egypt. It also stressed the pivotal role of Egypt in the Arab World and the region.
The GCC states expressed great concern over the latest events in Lebanon and reiterated the importance of Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty. It called upon all parties concerned to put Lebanon’s interest above all other issues and not to fall into the quagmire of sectarianism.