Saudi foreign minister: Assad's removal will 'solve refugee crisis'

Saudi foreign minister: Assad's removal will 'solve refugee crisis'
Exclusive: The removal of Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria is the solution to the refugee crisis, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has told The New Arab.
2 min read
25 May, 2016
Jubeir dismissed criticism of Saudi Arabia's role in providing aid to Syrian refugees [Getty]

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has said the key to solving the Syrian refugee crisis lies in removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Adel al-Jubeir, speaking exclusively to The New Arab at the UN World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, said Assad's departure would solve the crisis - and dismissed criticism that the kingdom was failing to provide adequate assistance to displaced Syrians.

"If it weren't for Assad being in power with his oppressive policies of killing, displacing and violating human rights, there wouldn't be 12 million Syrian refugees both in and outside the country," Jubeir told The New Arab.

"Assad must leave - whether it be through negotiations, a political solution or military force. After Assad's departure, Syria will be rebuilt economically and the doors will be opened for Syrian refugees to return."

The foreign minister brushed off criticism of Saudi Arabia's role in providing aid to Syrian refugees, stressing that the kingdom was playing an important role in alleviating the suffering of refugees.

"We have recently welcomed in thousands of Syrians and issued two million visas to Syrians. There are more than 700,000 Syrians living among their Saudi brothers in flats and houses - not refugee camps - and they have been granted residency, work permits and heathcare."

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He said that Saudi Arabia was the biggest backer of countries hosting Syrian refugees including Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, adding "the aid will continue and has no set limit".

Jubeir took part in the two-day UN meeting, despite many world leaders' keeping their distance from what medical NGO Medecins Sands Frontieres called a "fig-leaf summit". German Chancellor Angela Merkel and host Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the other diplomatic heavyweights in attendance.

During the summit, Erdogan warned the European Union that the Turkish parliament would block laws related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if Ankara were not granted its key demand of visa-free travel.

He urged global leaders to pull their weight in dealing with global humanitarian crises, adding that the burden of dealing with humanitarian issues should be better shared.

Erdogan also complained about the EU's wariness in handing over to Turkey a promise of three billion euro ($3.34bn) followed by another three billion to help Syrian refugees.