On March 29, 2015, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal strongly criticized Russian President Putin, asking: "Aren't we entitled to ask him how he can call for a peaceful solution [in Syria], while at the same time continuing his support for the Syrian regime?" Al-Faisal was speaking at the Arab League Summit in Sharm Al-Sheikh, responding to the reading of Putin's letter earlier to the participants.
Following are excerpts:
Saud Al-Faisal: Mr. President, I have a comment about the letter that came from the president of the Russian Federation. He talked about the problems afflicting the Middle East as if Russia is not influencing these problems. Take Syria, for example. The [Russians] are talking about the tragic situation in Syria, although they play a pivotal role in the tragedies afflicting the Syrian people. They give the Syrian regime more weapons than it needs to fight its own people. They provide it with strategic weapons. There are even reports that some weapons provided by Russia violate the international regulations restricting lethal arms. It is noteworthy that Russian law itself prohibits Russia from selling weapons to countries that use them for attack, rather than for defense. So how can we possibly accept what he is proposing to us all?
Does this [reflect] contempt toward our views on the interests of the Arab world in Syria, or perhaps insensitivity to the catastrophe caused by Russian arms in Syria? He was the one who chose Geneva 1 and Geneva 2 as a path to resolve the Syrian problem. Aren't we entitled to ask him how he can call for a peaceful solution, while at the same time continuing his support for the Syrian regime? He supports one of the two parties to the conflict, even though the regime has lost its legitimacy, along with any connection to the civilized world. Mr. President, I hope that a letter will be written to the Russian president.
This letter should express the Arab world's desire to have the best relations with Russia. Russia is one of the countries that the Arabs need. The Arabs need Russian support on international issues, and especially on issues that undoubtedly affect Arab interests. We should demand that his efforts vis-à-vis the international organizations will be in keeping with the goals he mentioned in his letter [to us]. I do not want us to oppose Russia or to ignore its interests. We should form shared interests with Russia. Yet we hope that they will give us a chance to view Russia as a friendly country, which wishes well for the Arab world, and does not aid the villains in our Arab world. Thank you, Mr. President.