MOSCOW - Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief has held a new meeting in Russia with President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian conflict, the second closed-door encounter this year between the Russian leader and the key regional powerbroker.
The Kremlin said in a statement late Tuesday that Prince Bandar bin Sultan discussed with Putin at the president’s suburban Moscow residence the situation in the Middle East and preparations for a Syria peace conference planned in January. “There was a detailed exchange of views on the situation around Syria, including in the context of preparations for the Geneva II conference,” the Kremlin said, without giving further details.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also met Prince Bandar in Moscow to discuss the Syria peace conference. “The emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that regional problems are solved on the basis of respect of the UN Charter and principles of international law,” the Russian foreign ministry said. The Syria conflict has further strained already testy relations between Moscow and Riyadh, with Russia refusing to drop its cooperation with the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia openly backing the rebels.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has blamed Saudi Arabia for a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people last month.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that claimed responsibility for the attacks, “has an emir and he is Saudi, and I am convinced that it is linked to the Saudi intelligence services, which direct groups like this one in several parts of the world,” Nasrallah told Lebanese broadcaster OTV. While Hezbollah and its regional backer Iran support Syria’s Assad, Saudi Arabia backs rebel fighters seeking his ouster.
The November 19 bomb attacks on the Iranian embassy came amid major regime offensives on several key fronts in Syria’s brutal war, among them Damascus province and Aleppo.
A day after the attack, Saudi Arabia condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” bombings.
In his remarks to OTV, Nasrallah said the blasts that hit the embassy, which is located in Hezbollah’s southern Beirut bastion, were “linked to Saudi Arabia’s rage against Iran over its failure” in Syria.
Saudi Arabia is “making Iran pay the price for the consequences of the failure of its plans in the region,” he added.