Saudi intel chief meets with Putin in Moscow

Photo: Saudi intel chief meets with Putin in Moscow / Arabic region

Russian President Vladimir Putin received Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan in Moscow on Tuesday, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Details of the meeting were not immediately available, but the talks likely focused on the crisis in Syria and the planned Geneva II peace conference, according to Al Arabiya sources.

Lina Sobonina, a Russian political analyst and researcher, told Al Arabiya News Channel that the discussion could address President Bashar al-Assad's role in the future of Syria. Russia might also invite Saudi Arabia to attend the Geneva II conference.

"Russia believes that the participation of all regional powers would be useful and necessary, including Iran and Saudi Arabia," Sobonina said.

Putin and Prince Bandar previously met in July to discuss Syria. It was reported at the time that the Saudi intelligence chief asked the Russian president to stop supporting Syrian President Assad and warned him that the situation on the ground in Syria would change in favor of rebels, according to Russian Itar-Tass News Agency.

The U.S.-Russian peace initiative dubbed Geneva II, which aims at bringing the Syrian regime and opposition representatives to the negotiating table in a bid to end the bloody 32-month war, is being planned for Jan. 22.

The opposition has agreed to attend the talks on condition that they lead to a transitional phase that excludes Assad and his regime.

But government officials and their backers in Iran and Russia insist there should be no preconditions, and Assad has also said he would be willing to stand for re-election in 2014.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad has said that no solution will be implemented without Assad's approval.

"The Syrian (government) delegation at Geneva will be working under Assad's directives, and any solutions proposed will have no impact unless Assad approves of them," said in remarks in the Syrian press.

The proposed talks come amid rising international fears of an Islamist takeover in Syria.

According to Muqdad, "in their closed meetings, Western leaders say there is no replacement for Assad."

He also said that at Geneva 2, "we will gather around the table and we will discuss, without foreign interference... and there will be an enlarged government."

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