Saudi Arabia has secretly offered the Kremlin a deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if Putin withdraws support for Syria’s Assad regime, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:
Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides. Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria.
“Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin.
“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the backing of Washington.
The revelations emerged amid speculation over pending US military action against the Assad regime following its deployment of chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
The White House’s stance on Syria shows that President Bashar al-Assad has lost his last chance, said Andrew J. Tabler, senior fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
President Obama’s reticence over the form and timing of the anticipated military action is a “normal procedure” in such cases, he told Al-Arabiya.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reports that Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime fell, but he hinted at Chechen attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord, Evans-Pritchard notes.
Prince Bandar said that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on and off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”