News / Middle East

Sources: Saudi Arabia Proposes Russia Scale Back Assad Support

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greets Head of Saudi Arabia's National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan during a meeting in Moscow, July 2008 file photo.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greets Head of Saudi Arabia's National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan during a meeting in Moscow, July 2008 file photo.
Reuters
— Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria's devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war, and any change in Moscow's stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons, as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia's position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

Reported deal

Sources said that in return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria.

Another Gulf source familiar with the matter confirmed that Prince Bandar offered to buy large quantities of arms from Russia, but said no cash amount was specified in the talks.

One Lebanese politician close to Saudi Arabia said the meeting between Bandar and Putin lasted four hours. “The Saudis were elated about the outcome of the meeting,” said the source, without elaborating.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could not immediately be reached on Wednesday for comment about the meeting. A Saudi Foreign Ministry official was also not immediately available to respond.

Putin's initial response to Bandar's offer was inconclusive, diplomats say. One Western diplomat in the Middle East said the Russian leader was unlikely to trade Moscow's recent high profile in the region for an arms deal, however substantial.

He said Russian officials also appeared skeptical that Saudi Arabia had a clear plan for stability in Syria if Assad fell.

Chemical weapons

However, in a possible sign of greater flexibility by Moscow, other diplomats said that in the run-up to the meeting Russia put pressure on Assad to allow in a U.N. mission to investigate the suspected use of chemical weapons.

The U.N. team is expected to visit Syria next week.

“This was one of those unannounced meetings that could prove much more important than the public diplomatic efforts being made on Syria,” said one diplomat.

A senior Syrian opposition figure said there had been a “build-up of Russian-Saudi contacts prior to the meeting. Bandar sought to allay two main Russian fears: that Islamist extremists will replace Assad, and that Syria would become a conduit for Gulf, mainly Qatari, gas at the expense of Russia. Bandar offered to intensify energy, military and economic cooperation with Moscow.”

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim powers have been strong supporters of the mainly Sunni rebels battling Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. The rebels have been joined by foreign Sunni jihadis.

Assad has enjoyed military support from Iran and fighters from Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi'ites.

Seeking aid resolution

Russia has maintained military sales to Syria throughout the two year conflict in which 100,000 people have been killed, and helped block three U.N. draft resolutions criticizing Assad's crackdown on the mainly peaceful protests against him in 2011.

The Security Council has been considering a possible resolution on aid for Syria for several months and a shift in position by Moscow could alleviate this.

Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based defense think tank CAST, said he had no direct knowledge of the offer, but he would not be surprised if a contract to supply Saudi Arabia with 150 Russian T-90 tanks were revived.

“There was an order of T-90s that was stopped for mysterious reasons, and if this is a resurrection of that order then we could suspect that the Saudis want something in return and that something could be linked to Syria,” said Pukhov, who is close to Russia's Defense Ministry. “If the Saudis want Moscow to outright drop Assad, they will refuse the deal, but they may have a more nuanced position, which they could possibly agree to.”

Russia and Saudi Arabia penned an arms contract in 2008 for 150 T-90s, more than 100 Mi-17 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, but the contract has stalled for years.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported at the time that the contract was concluded to persuade Moscow to curtail its ties with Iran, though the Kremlin denied that report.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Naqubat Ahmed from: Saudi Arabia
August 08, 2013 12:14 PM
hey kk... you sound like Iranian... look at your country - full of disease corruption moral degradation and despair... just watch out when the Azeris overcome their fear and find some courage...

In Response

by: Your name from: Canada
August 10, 2013 2:42 PM
Please go back to the 16th century. The Arabs in Saudi Arabia need freedom and democracy. At least Iranians vote for their president. You have no right to defend the Saud regime.


by: kk from: canada
August 07, 2013 11:28 PM
serious? or kidding?

Saudi give your people ballot, demo and freedom. noyw it is 21 century, not med-century.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid