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Syria now an occupied land, says Saudi Foreign Minister

Addition of Hezbollah, Iranian fighters is critical turn of events

Gulf News

Dubai: US Secretary John Kerry and Saudi Arabia are standing firmly against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, condemning him for bolstering his forces with foreign fighters and insisting that an international conference be convened to craft a political solution to end the bloody civil war.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, a key ally of the United States and foe of Iran, says Al 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.

Prince Saud told Kerry that Al Assad has waged “unprecedented genocide” through the more than two-year conflict that has claimed nearly 100,000 lives.

“The kingdom demands a clear, unequivocal international resolution that bans any sort of weapons support for the Syrian regime and declares null and void the legitimacy of that regime,” Prince Saud said at a joint news conference.

“The regime’s illegitimacy eliminates any possibility of it being part of any arrangement or playing any role whatsoever in shaping the present and future,” he said.

“Along with the regime’s genocide against its own people, this adds an even deadlier element in the form of an all-out foreign invasion,” Prince Saud said of Iran’s role.

Despite Prince Saud’s stance, Kerry said that the United States supported an agreement last year in Geneva that would create a transitional government that includes both the rebels and regime, although not Assad himself.

“We believe that the best solution is a political solution in which the people of Syria have an opportunity to be able to make a choice about their future,” Kerry said.

“We believe that every minority can be respected, there can be diversity and pluralism and that the people can do so in a climate of peace,” he said.