Saudi Arabia is 'engaged' with Russia and Ukraine on path to peace, says Foreign Minister

Prince Faisal bin Farhan laid out key foreign policy issues for the kingdom while at the World Economic Forum in Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has told the World Economic Form that stability for Palestinians is important for the region. Bloomberg
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Saudi Arabia is engaged in talks with both Russia and Ukraine over ways to end the 11-month conflict, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has said.

The kingdom has played a central role, along with the UAE, in securing prisoner swaps and pressing for talks between the warring sides since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

“Our main objective is to find a way to end the conflict. And I think everybody agrees that the only way this conflict will end eventually is at the negotiating table,” Prince Faisal told Bloomberg TV on Thursday from Davos in Switzerland.

He said the kingdom wants to “encourage all parties to find a path sooner rather than later to that table,” but declined to discuss the specific steps Riyadh had taken at this stage, saying such disclosures were “not helpful”.

However, he did admit that the sides were still a long way apart on a diplomatic resolution.

“I don’t know if we have a window now, but we need to keep working. And whenever we see an opportunity, we will push as much as we can,” he said.

Mr Putin called for a 36-hour ceasefire before Orthodox Christmas on January 7, but the move was rebuffed by Kyiv, which said there could be no truce until Russia withdrew its troops from occupied lands.

Ukraine’s allies backed its stance, with US State Department spokesman Ned Price saying: “Our concern is that the Russians would seek to use any temporary pause in fighting to rest, to refit, to regroup, and ultimately to re-attack.”

Russia has accused the West of blocking the possibility of peace, but Ukraine has consistently said it is open to talks if they are substantive and serious.

Prince Faisal added that Saudi Arabia was also engaging with Russia to keep oil prices “relatively stable” as energy prices — particularly gas — have been a key driver of global inflation in recent months.

On other matters, he said that the kingdom was seeking closer relations with China but that wouldn’t be at the expense of ties with the US.

The US is “the most active security partner in the region,” he said, although “China continues to be an important trading partner.”

On Syria, the Foreign Minister said countries in the region should work together to find a “political solution” to the 12-year civil war.

“We are working with our partners to figure out a way to engage with the government in Damascus in a way that delivers tangible movements towards a political resolution,” he said. “That’s going to take some work.”

He also said the kingdom still stood by the long stated view that an agreement to create a Palestinian state would be a precondition for the biggest Arab economy to establish formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

“We have said consistently that we believe normalisation with Israel is something that is very much in the interest of the region,” he said.

“However, true normalisation and true stability will only come through giving the Palestinians hope, through giving the Palestinians dignity.

“That requires giving the Palestinians a state, and that’s the priority,” he said.

Neighbours of the kingdom, including the Emirates and Bahrain, formalised relationships with Israel in 2020 under a US-brokered agreement, known as the Abraham Accords.

Israel has since been looking to expand on that breakthrough with other Arab countries.

Updated: January 21, 2023, 10:47 AM