Saudi Arabia praises Russian partial withdrawal from Syria

Saudi Arabia praises Russian partial withdrawal from Syria
Russia's partial withdrawal of troops and planes from Syria is a "positive step" towards an end to the war, Saudi Arabia has said.
3 min read
22 March, 2016
File Photo:Saudi Arabia has backed Syrian opposition groups throughout the war [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has said Russia's ongoing partial withdrawal of troops from war-torn Syria is a positive move towards concrete political resolutions to end the conflict.

The Saudi cabinet, chaired by King Salman, said the withdrawal would hopefully translate to the political concessions from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which are "sought by all Syrians".

"The cabinet considers the partial withdrawal of Russian troops a positive step," a statement said.

"[They] expressed hope the withdrawal will speed up the political process based on the 'Geneva I' declaration and forcing the Assad regime to make the necessary concessions to bring about a political transition," it added.

The statement came as Russia warned the United States that it would unilaterally start using force in response to allegations of ceasefire violations in Syria, if the US does not agree to joint rules on Tuesday.

Russian Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoy accused Washington on Monday of showing "no readiness" to agree how to enforce the ceasefire and warned Russia would resort to force itself if necessary.

      Russia has repeatedly violated the truce [Getty]
"The delay in the entry into force of the rules agreed upon for responding to violations of the ceasefire in Syria is unacceptable," he said in a statement.

Moscow would only use force "after receiving credible evidence of armed groups' systematic violations" of the truce, he added.

A truce declared last month has reportedly been violated repeatedly by Russian and Syrian forces.

Earlier this month, the US said that Syrian regime air raids that hit civilians were a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, has documented hundreds of civilian deaths in truce areas since it came into effect.

The truce does not include IS and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, however, who continue to be openly targeted in Russian air raids and government offensives.

Also on Monday, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah said  there would be no political solution to the Syrian war as long as the departure of Assad remained part of the "solution".

Assad's fate has been a key obstacle in the latest talks aimed at ending Syria's devastating five-year war, which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

Syria's main opposition said on Tuesday it would not be deterred by Damascus' refusal to discuss the fate of Assad, and vowed to be patient in the ongoing peace talks.

A partial ceasefire brought in last month had raised hopes for an end to the violence, which were further fuelled when Russia - a key backer of Assad - announced last week it would withdraw most of its troops from Syria.