Ibrahim ebu Leys / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Saudi, UN chief differ on Assad's fate as Syrian violence rages

64 people, including 28 children, killed in last 24 hours in Syria

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Saturday that Russia and Iran must agree to a date and means for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to quit the country, and to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made his comments in an interview with Sky News Arabia broadcast on Saturday, a day after Saudi Arabia and Iran took part in talks to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria.

The U.N. secretary-general weighed in on the topic Saturday, saying that disagreements over Assad's future should not hold up a humanitarian ceasefire or a wider deal to end the war in Syria.

'I believe that the future of Syria, or the future of all these peace talks, the Syrian-led negotiation, should not be held up by an issue of the future of one man,' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference in Geneva. "Basically I believe that it is up to the Syrian people who have to decide the future of President Assad."

Violence meanwhile continued in Syria, with at least 64 people, including 28 children, killed by Syrian army and Russian air raids in the northern province of Aleppo in the past 24 hours, according to a report Saturday by a group monitoring the war.

The raids hit Aleppo city and a number of towns and villages elsewhere in the province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as Syrian government forces backed by Russian air cover intensified bombardments against insurgents throughout the country. 

Saudi minister Jubeir said in his interview that the talks over Syria, which are to resume within two weeks, will show how serious Assad and his backers, Iran and Russia, are about achieving a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"Our two points where we differ from them are on a date and means for Assad's departure, and the second point is on a date and means for the withdrawal of foreign forces, especially Iranian ones. These are the two basic points without which there can be no solution," he said.

Assad and Iran accuse Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies of being behind terrorism in Syria through their backing of rebel groups. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies say they only arm and finance secular or moderate rebel groups.

Saudi Arabia has characterized Assad's use of air power and artillery in Syrian cities as genocidal and has described the presence of Iranian military forces and Shi'ite Muslim Iraqi and Lebanese militia in Syria as a foreign occupation.


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