February 19, 2016 / 5:38 PM / 2 years ago

Saudi minister says Syrian rebels should get surface-to-air missiles

BERLIN (Reuters) - Moderate Syrian rebels should be supplied with surface-to-air missiles to defend against air strikes, Germany weekly Der Spiegel quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir as saying.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivers a statement after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The rebels are under attack from both the Syrian air force and Russian strikes. Jubeir said providing them with the rockets would “enable the moderate opposition to neutralize the regime’s helicopters and planes”.

Al-Jubeir repeated his calls for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down in order to enable a political solution to the five-year-long war.

“The other option is that the war goes on and Assad is being defeated,” al-Jubeir said.

At least 250,000 people have been killed, 11 million made homeless and hundreds of thousands have fled to Europe since the conflict began in 2011.

Riyadh was still ready to support the U.S.-led coalition against the militant group Islamic State (IS) with special forces on the ground, he said.

Al-Jubeir rejected any similarities between the Islamist extremist group and Saudi-Arabia’s national, conservative interpretation of Islam, the Wahhabism.

“IS is about as Islamic as the Ku-Klux-Klan is Christian,” al-Jubeir said.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; writing by Mark Trevelyan

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