Bloomberg News

Saudi King Tells Medvedev No Point in Syria Talks After Veto

February 22, 2012

(Updates with analyst’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that there was no point in the two countries discussing events in Syria after Russia blocked a resolution on the issue in the United Nations Security Council.

“The Russian friends should have coordinated with the Arabs before Russia used its right to veto in the Security Council,” Abdullah told Medvedev in a telephone conversation, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. “Now any dialogue about what happened is pointless.”

Abdullah said Feb. 10 that the world’s confidence in the UN was “shaken” after Russia and China vetoed an Arab League plan to facilitate a political transition in Syria. The kingdom has joined other Gulf Arab countries in seeking to isolate the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“The advances within the last decade that Russia made into the GCC, with construction, tourism and energy sectors, may have been swept aside by this one veto,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said in a phone interview. “In Saudi Arabia, there is a society-wide outrage that not only includes clerics but every-day individuals and the leadership.”

Syria has come under mounting international pressure as a result of Assad’s crackdown on protesters, which is nearing its one-year mark. Government forces have intensified efforts to stamp out the rebellion using mortars, artillery and tanks.

Government Crackdown

The UN estimates more than 5,400 Syrians died last year as loyalist forces cracked down on protests that began in March. More than 8,500 people have been killed since the conflict began in March, Mahmoud Merei, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone from Damascus today.

Public anger in Saudi Arabia over events in Syria has intensified this month following the veto.

The English-language Saudi Gazette and al-Sharq newspaper in the Eastern Province printed opinion pieces earlier this month supporting a boycott of Russian and Chinese products.

Sheikh Saleh Luhaidan, former chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council of Saudi Arabia, called on Gulf oil producers to stop selling oil to Russia and China, according to a Feb. 7 statement published on the online newspaper al-Marsd.

During Friday prayer sermons last week, imams denounced the attacks on innocent civilians and warned that the conflict would have an impact on the Muslim world, Arab News reported on Feb. 18.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria became strained after the assassination in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a confidant of the Saudi royal family and a citizen of the kingdom. An initial UN investigation linked the killing of Hariri to Syrian officials. Syria has repeatedly denied any involvement.

--Editors: Louis Meixler, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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