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Report: Moscow rebuffs Saudi offer to abandon Syria regime for arms deal

Al Ahed news

Moscow has strictly rebuffed a Saudi proposal to abandon the Syrian government in exchange of a rich arms deal, ensuring that Persian Gulf gas would not challenge Russia’s gas sales to Europe, also increasing Russia’s influence in the Arab countries, media reports said.

The $15 billion weapons proposal was purportedly made during the July 31 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, according to Reuters.
Neither Moscow nor Riyadh has officially commented on the agenda of the talks.

Still, a Thursday AFP report revealed new details of the negotiations.

According to an anonymous European diplomat, Prince Bandar proposed the deal and told Putin “whatever regime comes after” Assad will be “completely” in Riyadh’s hands.

He furthermore reportedly stated that if the deal was accepted, Saudi Arabia would not sign any contracts damaging Russian interests by allowing Gulf countries to transport its gas across Syria to Europe.

In return, Moscow is expected to drop its support of President Bashar Assad, and not standing in face of any future Security Council resolutions on Syria.

“President Putin listened politely to his interlocutor and let him know that his country would not change its strategy,” a separate Arab diplomat told AFP.

Bandar bin Sultan then told Russian officials that the only option left in Syria is a military one – and that they should forget about the Geneva-2 international peace conference because the opposition would not attend, the source said. Efforts to bring about the conference – which has been put forth by the US and Moscow – have so far been fruitless, mainly because of the absence of unity within the opposition ranks.

The meeting between Putin and Bandar came amid tension between the two states over the conflict in Syria, with Russia accusing the Saudis of “financing and arming terrorists and extremist groups” fighting against the Syrian government.

Known to have had close ties with former US President George Bush, Bandar a former Saudi ambassador to US, is currently director general of Saudi Intelligence Agency. Also, he was an advocate of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Saudi Arabia along with other US allies in the region has been a key supporter of the militants fighting the Assad government in Syria.

Riyadh has also called for foreign military intervention to topple President Assad’s government.

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