Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Saturday that Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad should not take part in the proposed peace talks aimed at ending that country’s deadly conflict.
“It is impossible for Assad, his regime and its affiliates to play a role in the future of Syria,” the Saudi minister told reporters in Jeddah.
An upcoming peace conference, expected to be set in Geneva, is a joint Russian and U.S. proposal to bring together representatives of the Syrian opposition and Assad’s regime.
However, the opposition’s long-standing position has been that it will not negotiate until Assad agrees to leave, and there is no formal precondition for the conference of him stepping down.
On Friday, Russia said it received the Damascus government’s assurance it would take part in the talks.
But the move was met with skepticism from the opposition.
“We were surprised that this announcement was made in Moscow, not in Damascus,” Safi told the BBC. “The first reaction is that we would like to hear it from the Syrian government.”
Prince Faisal said he believes the Syrian National Coalition should be supported as a true representative of the Syrian people.
“We support the will of the Syrian people, which has expressed its will clearly, saying it does not wish to see any role in the conference for Bashar al-Assad, or any of those whose hands are stained with Syrian blood.”
More than 94,000 people have been killed in the two years since, according to rights activists.
Prince Faisal voiced hopes that the upcoming Geneva 2 peace talks will put an end to bloodshed in Syria.
Faisal said he hoped the conference would lead to an “immediate ceasefire and meet the aspirations of the Syrian people to achieve a peaceful transfer of power.”
On the topic of Iran, meanwhile, the Saudi foreign minister asked that “Iran play a part in calming regional conflicts, instead of fanning the flames,” while also stressing the regional danger of Iran's controversial nuclear program.