08:54 GMT +321 April 2018
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    Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

    Saudi Crown Prince Says Syria's Assad 'is Staying'

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    According to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Bashar al-Assad is not likely to be toppled; yet he has expressed hopes that Assad will not serve Tehran’s interests.

    The wide-ranging interview with Time has shown that Riyadh’s views on Syria’s future might have changed.

    “Bashar is staying. But I believe that Bashar’s interests are not to let the Iranians do whatever they want they want to do,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the media outlet.

    READ MORE: Trump: US to Leave Syria 'Very Soon' to Let Others Take Care of It

    Having focused on Syria, bin Salman said that US military presence in the country was indispensable.

    “We believe American troops should stay for at least the mid-term, if not the long-term.”

    The Saudi Crown Prince proceeded to warn of the possible dangers the decision to withdraw troops from eastern Syria might lead to.

    “If you take those troops out from eastern Syria, you will lose that checkpoint. And this corridor could create a lot of things in the region,” Time cited him as saying.

    READ MORE: Trump Administration Freezes Over $200Mln Aid for Syria – Reports

    His comments came shortly after President Donald Trump had announced that US troops would be pulled out from the war-weary country.

    “By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS*. We’re coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now, very soon. Very soon, we’re coming out,” he told a crowd in Ohio.

    Since 2014, the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh targets in Syria without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Syrian authorities have repeatedly called the US military presence in the country "illegal."

    Saudi Arabia used to believe there was no future for Bashar Assad in Syria, reiterating the US-led coalition’s stance that he should leave. As Damascus was considered to be the closest ally to Riyadh’s key rival in the Middle East, Iran, a government change in Syria might have been regarded as an opportunity to strike a major blow to Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Iran have supported different parties to several conflicts, including Yemen and Syria, in their struggle for regional dominance.

    Earlier this week, the leader of Hezbollah claimed that Riyadh had offered Syria hundreds of billions of dollars in funds for post-war reconstruction if Damascus severed ties with Iran.

    *Daesh, also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS, a terrorist group banned in Russia

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    Syrian war, Syria, United States, Saudi Arabia
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