Middle East

Kerry: Saudi and US agree on Syria goal

US and Saudi top diplomats downplay differences, months after US decision not to bomb Syria angered Riyadh.

Last Modified: 04 Nov 2013 19:05
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Prince Saud said disagreements were a normal part of relations between any two countries [Reuters]

The US Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to Saudi Arabia, has insisted that the two allies agreed on the "goal in Syria".

The visit is the first since the Saudis were angered by the US decision not to bomb Syria in the wake of a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus in August.

A senior prince said at that time that Riyadh was contemplating a "major shift" away from Washington.

"There is no difference in our mutually agreed upon goal in Syria," Kerry told a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, on Monday.

He insisted that Washington "will not stand idly by as [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad continues to use weapons" against his own people.

Prince Saud said the differences with the US were mostly on tactics rather than on goals, and that such disagreements were a normal part of relations between any two countries.

"Relations have always been based on independence and respect and based on serving mutual interests," he said. "Difference is a normal matter and we seek to mend it through communication."

'Human tragedies'

But while stressing the strength of ties with the US, the minister also slammed the "international community's failure to stop the war against the Syrian people".

Negotiations to solve any crisis "shouldn't just go on indefinitely" he said, in reference to a US-Russian proposed peace conference.

He insisted that some "grave issues desperately need decisive and resolute intervention that should put an end to the human tragedies they produced".

Kerry reiterated that Washington opposed military intervention to end the 31-month conflict.

"Absent a negotiated solution we don't see a lot of ways to end the violence that are implementable or palatable to us, because we don't have the legal authority, or the justification or the desire at this point to get in the middle of a civil war," he said.

"I think that's been made very, very clear, " he added.

Kerry's 11-day tour of the Middle East comes at the start of an important week, with a meeting scheduled in Geneva on trying to fix a date for Syria peace talks.

In an unprecedented move last month, Saudi Arabia turned down a coveted non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in protest at the world body's failure to end the war in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people.


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