Vladimir Putin reaches out to Saudi Arabia over Syria offensive

Russian President Vladimir Putin (3rd R) and Saudi Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman (4th L) pose during a meeting in Sochi, RussiaReuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks with Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman over ongoing Syria offensive. The two countries broadly agreed on uprooting Islamic State (Isis) from the region and drafting a political solution to the conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Energy Minister Alexander Novak also participated in the talks in Sochi. The leaders met on the sidelines of a Formula One event in the Russian city.

Putin's talks with the Saudi defence minister is a pivotal point in the continuing tensions in the region since the Sunni-dominated Riyadh is one of the harshest critics of the Syrian regime. Russia, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has enraged western nations and other adversaries of Assad since it began airstrikes in Syria on 30 September. Moscow has dramatically escalated its military campaign.

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"The sides confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Russia have similar goals concerning Syria. First of all, they are to prevent a terrorist caliphate from getting the upper hand in Syria," said Lavrov following the talks.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expressed concerns over Russia's targets, which the US and other nations suspect are anti-Assad forces. Addressing those concerns, Moscow has agreed to share intelligence with several nations.

Lavrov said: "On our part, we expressed readiness, which was met with a positive response from the successor to the crown prince, to begin close cooperation between our militaries, and security services in order to eliminate any doubts that the targets of the Russian Air Force are IS militants, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist organisations."

Both Riyadh and Moscow insist on a political solution to the five-year-long Syrian crisis but sharply differ on Assad's future role. Besides, Saudi delegates have raised concerns that Russia could form an alliance with Iran in order to further intensify its Syria offensive.

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