US denies reports of dispute with Saudi over Syria crisis

Washington: The United States has denied that it is in a dispute with its ally Saudi Arabia over how to handle the crisis in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was all smiles late Monday when he welcomed deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to his home in Washington.

The influential 30-year-old prince, who serves as defense minister, broke his Ramadan fast at an iftar supper with the top US diplomat.

A file photo of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) with department Spokesperso John Kirby. Reuters

A file photo of U.S. State Secretary John Kerry (R) with department Spokesperson John Kirby. Reuters

Reports had suggested Riyadh is frustrated with US policy in Syria and would like to step up arms supplies to the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But on Tuesday, Kerry's spokesman John Kirby denied there was any rift.

"If you're asking if there's this big philosophical divide between the Saudis and the United States on how to move forward on the ground in Syria, the answer is 'no,'" he told reporters.

Kirby recalled that Saudi Arabia had been one of the first countries to join the United States and Russia in forming the International Syria Support Group.

This 22-nation group is pushing for a negotiated end to Syria's civil war, and Riyadh was vital in getting skeptical mainly Sunni rebels on board.

"If it were not for Saudi leadership, we wouldn't have that first meeting of the Syrian opposition groups back in December in Riyadh," Kirby said.

"They have been at this right from the beginning with the United States and with Russia and with Turkey, moving this process forward."

Earlier in the process, Saudi officials privately told AFP they favoured sending ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons to the rebels.

But they have stuck by the US and Russian plan, while continuing to complain that Assad - backed by Saudi foe Iran- is breaching a shaky truce.

"I'm not going to speak for what they specifically want to do differently," Kirby said.

"But I can tell you that on the issues that matter...Saudi Arabia has been with us step-by-step."

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2016 08:55 AM

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