Saudi FM: Iran must withdraw ‘occupying’ forces from Syria
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal says ‘in many conflicts, Iran is part of the problem, not the solution’
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged Iran on Monday to withdraw its “occupying” from Syria to help resolve the crisis.
“Our reservations are about Iran’s policy in the region, not about Iran as a country or people,” Prince al-Faisal said at a joint press conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“In many conflicts, Iran is part of the problem, not the solution,” the foreign minister added, adding accusing Tehran of sending to troops are in Syria “fighting Syrians.”
“In this case, we can say that Iranian forces in Syria are occupying forces,” aiding President Bashar al-Assad, whom he described as an “illegitimate” leader, AFP reported.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states support rebel groups which have been battling Assad since March 2011 in a war which has killed more than 180,000 people.
Assad receives financial and military aid from Iran, which denies having fighters on the ground.
He is also backed by fighters from Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Shiite movement Hezbollah, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“If Iran wants to be part of the solution in Syria, it has to pull its forces from Syria. The same applies elsewhere, whether in Yemen or Iraq,” the Saudi minister said.
Iran is accused of backing Shiite rebels in Yemen, who overran the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21.
And bonded by Shiite Islam, Iran and Iraq have grown closer in the realms of government and security since the overthrow of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Among the many groups fighting Assad is the ISIS group of extremists, which Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states are now battling under a U.S.-led coalition.
The Arab nations have taken part in or given support to coalition air strikes against the ISIS militants in Syria.
ISIS has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, declaring a “caliphate” where they have been accused of carrying out widespread atrocities, including mass executions, crucifixions and beheadings, and forcing women into slavery.
Such extremism “has nothing to do with Islam,” Saudi King Abdullah said last week.
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