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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid