Turkey, Saudi warn over Russia's 'Syria mistake'

Russian pilots checking the weapons of a Russian warplane at the Syrian Hmeymim airbase, outside Latakia, Syria, on Oct 5, 2015.
Russian pilots checking the weapons of a Russian warplane at the Syrian Hmeymim airbase, outside Latakia, Syria, on Oct 5, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey and Saudi Arabia on Thursday (Oct 15) warned Russia over the consequences of its intervention in Syria, with Ankara telling Moscow its bombing campaign in support of the regime was a "big mistake".

The two majority Sunni Muslim powers both support the moderate opposition in Syria and have been infuriated by Moscow's bombing campaign to prop the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Russia is making a big mistake," Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu told reporters after talks in Ankara with Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

"What it does will bring no meaning or benefit, other than delaying the transition process to help Syria out of the chaos," he added.

"We will continue with our warnings."

Ankara is particularly concerned over claims - denied by Moscow - that its bombing campaign has targeted anti-Assad rebels rather than the stated aim of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists.

"Saudi Arabia and Turkey are in agreement on supporting the opposition in Syria. What is important is a political solution," Jubeir said.

"We are in agreement that there will certainly be no role for Bashar al-Assad," he added.

He said that in recent talks with top Russian officials, Riyadh had told Moscow that the Syria crisis should be solved according to the 2012 Geneva communique which envisages a political transition in Syria.

"We (in Ankara) discussed the intervention of foreign powers, especially the Russian intervention which is a very critical issue and could lead to foreigners intervening in Syria from the outside," Jubeir said.

Their united opposition to the Russian bombing campaign has intensified a rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that has gained pace over the last months.

Riyadh and Ankara fell out badly over Saudi's support of the toppling by the Egyptian army of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 who Turkey has strongly supported.

But in a sign of warming ties, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly defended Saudi Arabia against vehement criticism from within the Islamic world over the deaths of hundreds of pilgrims at a stampede during the hajj pilgrimage.