Saudi Arabia wants to cooperate with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman, on Sunday, in Moscow’s most important attempt so far to reach out to enemies of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, since Russia joined the conflict with air strikes.

Speaking after the meeting , Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both countries were willing to cooperate in Syria and wanted to prevent the formation of a “terrorist caliphate”.

“On both sides, as far as I can tell, there is an understanding that today’s meeting can advance our cooperation,” Lavrov said.

Russia’s intervention in Syria has infuriated Assad’s regional foes, including Saudi Arabia, who sayRussian air strikes have been hitting rebel groups opposed to Assad, and not just the Islamic State fighters Moscow says it is targeting.

Lavrov acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had “concerns” about Russia’s aims but said it was targeting only extremists, including Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra, a group linked to al Qaeda.

The Russian air strikes derailed a tentative detente between the two countries earlier this year, which aimed to smooth tensions over Syria and relations with Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.