By Arab News
By Mohammed Rasooldeen
International talks in Vienna this week will test whether Russia and Iran are “serious” about a political solution to the war in Syria, said Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Wednesday.
“If they’re serious we will know, and if they’re not serious we will also know and stop wasting time with them,” Al-Jubeir said at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
The two-day talks beginning Thursday will “test the intentions of the Syrians and the Russians,” focusing primarily on the future of President Bashar Assad, Al-Jubeir said.
While Russia and Iran think Assad should be able to stand for re-election, so that the Syrian people can decide on his future, Hammond said all others agree that Assad has “too much blood on his hands” and should go.
Al-Jubeir said the Saudi position had not changed. “There has to be certainty that Assad will leave” once a transitional council of opposition and government figures has been set up.”
If common ground can be found on Assad’s departure, the Vienna talks would be the first step to a political solution for the war. “If we can’t find a way to bridge the gap on transitional government we will have to find a different way to move the situation forward,” Hammond said.
Iran confirmed that its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will join his counterparts from Russia, the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia at the talks.
Regarding Yemen, Al-Jubeir said that seven-month the war against the Houthis may soon end.
“One of the indications that the campaign is nearing its end is the fact that … Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis are accepting UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and entering into talks,” Al-Jubeir said.
“We also see the gains that have been made on the ground. Most of Yemen’s territory that was captured by the rebels has been recaptured,” he added.
Meanwhile, Karl Andree, 74, Briton, who is in jail and awaiting public flogging, will be released within a week, Hammond announced. “I am delighted to make this announcement about Andree who will be reunited with his family,” Hammond said.
“This is a good outcome and I’m grateful to Minister Al-Jubeir and all others who have been involved, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif for ensuring that we now have a good outcome.”
Hammond pointed out that the case had caused “concern” in Britain but it was because of the “strength, depth and breadth” of the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia that they were able to “achieve effective results.”
Andree was found with homemade wine in the boot of his car in Jeddah.