October 31, 2015 / 7:39 AM / 2 years ago

Saudi says Assad, Iran-backed foreign forces must quit Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at the International Institute of Strategic Studies conference "Manama-Dialogue 2015 at Manama, Bahrain October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

RIYADH (Reuters) - Russia and Iran must agree to a date and means for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to quit the country, and agree to withdraw all foreign forces from Syria, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview with Sky News Arabia broadcast on Saturday.

Arch regional competitors Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose rivalry has been aggravated by their support for opposing sides in Syria, both took part in talks to find a peaceful solution for the country for the first time in Vienna on Friday.

Jubeir said in the interview the Vienna talks, which will resume within two weeks, would show how serious Assad and his backers Iran and Russia were in seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis.

“Our two points where we differ from them are on a date and means for Assad’s departure, and the second point is on a date and means for the withdrawal of foreign forces, especially Iranian ones. These are the two basic points without which there can be no solution,” he said.

Assad and Iran accuse Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies of being behind terrorism in Syria through their backing of rebel groups. Those countries say they only arm and finance secular or moderate Islamist rebel groups.

Saudi Arabia has characterized Assad’s use of air power and artillery in Syrian cities as genocidal and has described the presence of Iranian military forces and Shi‘ite Muslim Iraqi and Lebanese militia in Syria as a foreign occupation.

Reporting By Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Susan Thomas

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