Putin Discusses Syria with Saudi Defense Minister

Russian President meets Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Prince to discuss the possibility of a political solution in Syria.

Ben Ariel ,

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday about the possibility of a political solution in Syria, where Moscow has been conducting airstrikes since late September, AFP reports.

The two huddled in the southern Russian city of Sochi and were joined by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Energy Minister Alexander Novak, according to the news agency.

"We have closely cooperated with Saudi Arabia for years on the crisis in Syria," Lavrov told journalists after the meeting.

"The two parties confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Russia have similar objectives when it comes to Syria. Above all, it is to not let a terrorist caliphate take over the country."

"After today's talks, we understand better how to move toward a political solution," Lavrov said.

Mohammed bin Salman said that Riyadh was worried about Russia's military intervention in Syria, and the country's possible alliance with Iran.

He added that Saudi Arabia was in favor of a political solution in Syria, but one which includes the departure of President Bashar Al-Assad, a staunch ally of Moscow.

Lavrov also said that Moscow was ready for closer cooperation with Riyadh to make clear that the country was in fact targeting Islamic State, Al-Nusra and other terrorist strongholds in Syria.

Using modern jets and older Soviet aircraft, Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria last week, and later ramped up its war by unleashing cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea

Putin said Sunday that the Russian operation's objective was to "stabilize the legitimate authorities and create conditions for finding a political compromise."

Western governments say the vast majority of Russian strikes have targeted rebel groups other than ISIS in an attempt to defend President Bashar Al-Assad's rule, despite claims from Russia it is targeting only ISIS.

After the first Russian strikes against the Homs and Hama districts of the country, an unnamed American official said the targets were "moderate" rebel groups fighting ISIS.