Middle East

Russia's Lavrov to hold Syria talks in Saudi: official

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on during a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart following their meeting in Belgrade on June 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

RIYADH: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected in Saudi Arabia late on Friday for talks about the Syrian conflict, on which Moscow and Riyadh hold diverging views, a Saudi official said.

Lavrov will meet Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Saturday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah "for talks on several issues, with developments in Syria at the top of the agenda", the official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in the more than three-year conflict, while Saudi Arabia supports the rebels trying to oust him.

On June 10, a Kremlin spokesman indicated to AFP that Russian President Vladimir Putin had recently met Prince Saud, without saying where or when they met, or what was discussed.

Confirmation of the meeting come a day after Lavrov held a telephone conversation with his Saudi counterpart to discuss the war.

Prince Saud took over the kingdom's oversight of its Syria policy from the head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in February.

The latter, who was asked by Riyadh to step down in April, was an ardent backer of funding, arming and unifying the rebels in Syria.

His last public assignment was a failed attempt in December to press Putin to abandon his support for Assad.





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