Kerry talks to Saudis about Syria, Mideast peace
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Arabia stood firmly Tuesday against Syrian President Bashar Assad, condemning him for bolstering his forces with foreign fighters and insisting that a stalled international conference be convened to craft a political solution to end the bloody civil war.
“We believe that the best solution is a political solution,” Kerry said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, a key ally of the United States and foe of Iran, says Assad’s addition of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters to the battlefield is a critical turn of events that cannot be ignored. He says Syria is now an occupied land — a development that requires speedy action by the international community.
“Syria is facing two things -unprecedented genocide and a foreign invasion,” al-Faisal said.
Kerry, on a trip through the Mideast and Asia, says the U.S. remains convinced that an international conference offers the best chance to bring about a political solution.
“We do not want this to be a wider war,” Kerry said. “We will to continue to provide assistance to the Syrian military coalition and to the Syrian opposition in the interim. Because we do not believe it is appropriate for the Assad regime to have invited the Iranians and Hezbollah to cross international lines and to have their fighters on the ground. There are no United States fighters. There are no Saudi fighters. There are no Qatari fighters on the ground.”
Nevertheless, regional powers like Saudi Arabia, and soon the United States, are sending lethal aid to the rebels. The United States also has 1,000 troops in Jordan providing training.
On Eqypt, Kerry said the U.S. has made many recommendations to help the country create a way for the opposition to be part of the political process in order to create some economic reforms that would help attract business and capital.
“This demonstration is spontaneous. It comes from the Egyptian people. We hope it will bring the government ultimately to the place where the reforms are affected and choices that need to be made about the economy are implemented,” he said. “We would obviously hope that it will not produce violence — that is would be a moment catalyzing positive change for Egypt itself.”
The political situation in Egypt is deteriorating. Kerry’s remarks come after Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave the nation’s Islamist rulers and their opponents a week to reach an understanding before planned June 30 opposition protests demanding resignation of President Mohammed Morsi. El-Sissi issued a toughly worded warning that the military will intervene to stop the nation from entering a “dark tunnel.”
El-Sissi’s statement indicated to Morsi’s hard-line backers that the military will step in if protesters are attacked during their demonstrations, marking Morsi’s one year in office.
Opponents charge that Morsi is monopolizing power for his Muslim Brotherhood, excluding others, while failing to make progress toward solving the country’s critical problems, like economic malaise, fuel shortages, electricity blackouts and increasing unemployment. They demand that he step down and hold early presidential elections