Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, during a meeting in Novo-Ogaryovo residence with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence and Secretary-General of the National Security Council, 31 July 2013. Left – Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary, Security Council of the Russian Federation. (Aleksey Nikolskyi / RIA Novosti)
No deal offering rich arms contacts and protection of Moscow’s gas interests in exchange for Russia withdrawing support for Syrian President Assad was discussed during Vladimir Putin’s talks with Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar, the Kremlin said.
“Putin didn’t discuss any deals,” the Russian president’s aide, Yury Ushakov, answered when asked by RT about media reports, which claimed that a $15 billion Saudi offer was put on the table during the Moscow talks on July 31.
“Specific issues of military-technical cooperation development and other aspects of bilateral cooperation weren’t on the agenda,” he stressed.
According to Ushakov, the talks were organized to clarifying the stance which each country takes in the Syrian conflict.
Despite having opposing views on the issue, Moscow and Riyadh have “demonstrated a similar amount of concern” about the events in the war-torn Middle Eastern state, the aide said.
Ushakov also informed that Bandar had other contacts in Moscow besides meeting with Putin, but the Kremlin is unaware of the contents of those negotiations.
Moscow’s official comments come after more than a week since the meeting took place, while the Saudi side remains silent on the agenda of Prince Bandar’s talks in the Russian capital.
The Saudi Arabian intelligence chief has allegedly offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensure that Gulf gas nations won’t threaten Russia’s position as Europe’s main gas supplier, Reuters and AFP reported this week, citing diplomatic sources.
The terms of the bargain reportedly included Kremlin dropping its support of Assad, as well as not opposing any future Security Council resolutions on Syria.
An undisclosed Arab diplomat told AFP that the Russian president listened to the offer and rejected it, saying that “his country wouldn’t change its strategy” of backing the Syrian government.
Bandar allegedly replied by saying that the only option left in Syria is a military one – and that Russia should forget about the Geneva-2 international peace conference because the opposition would not attend, the source said.
Efforts to stage the peace conference – which has been put forth by Washington and Moscow – have so far been fruitless, mainly because of the absence of unity within the opposition ranks.
The civil war between the government forces and the Western-backed rebels is raging in Syria since March 2011, leading to the deaths of over 100,000 people, according to the UN data.