Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Saudis deny Assad to visit kingdom
The Media Line Staff and Jpost.com Staff
Reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad is planning to visit the Saudi kingdom are not true, Saudi Arabia said, in what is seen as a further indication of the tension between Riyadh and Damascus.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom had not received a request for Assad to visit. However, he dismissed rumors that there was a breach in their relations or that they required outside mediation.
"Our relationship with Syria stands, as well as the direct communication between the two countries, " Faisal told reporters.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Damascus have soured over the past couple of years, primarily over the crisis in Lebanon.
Riyadh accuses Syria of perpetuating the political gridlock in Lebanon, which has been without a president since last November. Syria and Iran support the large opposition bloc in Lebanon.
Also, Syria is seen as being behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who had Saudi citizenship.
Saudi Arabia refrained from sending a high-level delegate to the Arab League summit in Damascus last month.
The recent beheading of three Syrian nationals in the Saudi Kingdom further strained these relations. Riyadh denied there were any political motives behind the execution of the Syrians, who were accused of drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, the Qatari-based Al Watan newspaper quoted unnamed Arab leaders as saying "the relations between Syria and other Arab countries are on the verge of a deep abyss."
"Assad himself is responsible for his isolation, because of the destruction he wrought on Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine and because of the alliances he struck with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas ... Assad's biggest problem is that he refuses to mend the mistakes he made and insists that Lebanon will be seen as a Syrian area. This is something that all Arab states oppose," the unnamed sources told the paper.
The sources warned that so long as Assad remains an ally of Iran and other extremist forces, Arab states would continue to refrain from forging relations with Damascus.