Moscow Rejects Saudi Offer to Drop Assad for Rich Arms Deal
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Moscow has said “no” to Saudi Arabia’s alleged proposal of a rich arms deal and protection of Russia’s gas interests in the Middle East in exchange for abandoning Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to Arab and European diplomats.
The proposal of $15bln in weapons contracts was allegedly made during the July 31 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, RT reported.
Neither Moscow nor Riyadh has officially commented on the agenda of the talks, but a Thursday AFP report revealed new details of the negotiations.
According to an undisclosed European diplomat, Prince Bandar proposed the deal and told Putin that"whatever regime comes after" Assad will be "completely" in Riyadh’s hands.
The Prince reportedly stated that if the deal was accepted, Saudi Arabia would not sign any contracts damaging Russian interests by allowing Persian Gulf countries to transport its gas across Syria to Europe.
The terms included Moscow dropping its support of President Bashar Assad, as well as not opposing any future Security Council resolutions on Syria.
"President Putin listened politely to his interlocutor and let him know that his country would not change its strategy," a separate Arab diplomat said.
Bandar bin Sultan then told Russian officials that the only option left in Syria is a military one – and that they should forget about the Geneva-2 international peace conference because the opposition would not attend, the source said.
Efforts to bring about the conference – which has been put forth by the US and Moscow – have so far been fruitless, mainly because of the absence of unity within the opposition ranks.
Russia and Saudi Arabia - which traditionally buys its military hardware from the US – have had a massive arms contract frozen since 2008. Back then, the sides agreed that Moscow would supply a huge assortment of equipment, including 150 T-90 tanks and more than 150 attack helicopters, to the Persian Gulf state.