On December 23, the Russian presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told the Russian new agency RIA Novosti that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir pressured the Syrian opposition to give up on its demands that Assad must leave power during the last Syrian opposition talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh on November 22.
“They [Saudi Arabia] sincerely tried to return the opposition to its since, and to convince it that it is not necessary to include such abusive language against the current authorities in the final statement … They [Saudi Arabia] could not achieve it,” Lavrentyev told RIA Novosti.
Lavrentyev also revealed that Saudi Arabia and many other countries that opposed the Damascus since 2011, are now reconsidering their positions on the Syrian crisis.
Regarding the current strict position of the Syrian opposition, the Russian presidential envoy for Syria said that he warned that such behavior will have negative consequences. Lavrentyev also said that many radical figures of the Syrian opposition were expelled because of their extreme views.
“We have warned that this behavior may have negative consequences, we admit it, but we cannot do anything about it – there are [opposition] figures with bad temper and attempts were made to purge the [Syrian opposition] ranks of them, the radicals … but as soon as they disappeared, others replaced them,” said Lavrentyev.
Ahead of the Syrian opposition talks in Riyad, Saudi Arabia had kicked several prominent figures of the Syrian opposition out of the Syrian opposition body. One of the top figures expelled by Saudi Arabia was Riyad Farid Hijab, a former Prime Minister of Syria who defected in 2012.
The Saudi decision to expel Hijab and other Syrian opposition figures was seen by observers as the clearest example of how Saudi Arabia is shifting its policy towards Syria.