Saudi Arabia has threatened to use military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if ongoing political talks fail to bring peace to the conflict-stricken nation. The announcement followed an International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting held in Vienna on Tuesday. “We believe we should have moved to a ‘Plan B’ a long time ago,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some members of the ISSG view al-Nusra Front, linked with Al Qaeda, as a useful tool to put pressure on the Syrian government. The Russian FM added that no one is stronger that the Syrian army “on ground” in Syria and noted that Kurds should be allowed to participate in the talks on the conflict.
Unofficially, all the sides involved in the negotiations say that they had no high expectations from this round of talks. The sides failed to agree a new date to resume Syrian peace talks and the so-called “opposition” said it would not come back to Geneva negotiations unless conditions improved on the ground. In a joint statement after the meeting the powers called for a full cessation of hostilities and access for aid.
On May 18, the Russian Defense Ministry has denied allegations that Russia is constructing an army base in the city of Palmyra, which has recently been freed from ISIS. Earlier in the day, the AP news agency reported that the Russian military is building an army base in Palmyra within the zone listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and without permission from authorities. The agency used satellite images and cited an “American heritage organization” and a “top Syrian archaeologist” as its sources. According to the Russian MoD, the satellite pictures of this area show the temporary camp of the International Demining Center of Russia’s Defense Forces.