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CAIRO, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Sunday after talks with his counterpart in Cairo that wider international talks to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria had yielded some progress although further consultations were needed.
Differences seem to be increasing between Saudi Arabia’s position on Syria and that of Egypt, a close ally. Unlike Saudi Arabia, which backs some Syrian rebel groups, Egypt has welcomed Russian air strikes in Syria against insurgents.
Moscow says Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must be part of any political transition and that the Syrian people will decide who rules them.
Washington has said it could tolerate Assad during a short transition period, but that he would then have to then exit the political stage.
In a flurry of diplomatic activity around the Syria crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Riyadh on Saturday and the two countries agreed to boost support for Syria’s moderate opposition while seeking a political resolution to the four-year-old conflict.
At a news conference in Cairo with Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry, Jubeir said: “I believe that there has been some progress and positions have moved closer on finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, but I cannot say that we have reached an agreement. We still need more consultations...to reach this point.”
Jubeir gave no details on what positions had shifted or how far but reiterated the long-held Saudi stance that Assad must go, saying Riyadh backed the creation of a transitional ruling body that would write a new constitution and prepare for elections.
“There is no role for Bashar al-Assad in the future of Syria,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called in an interview broadcast on Saturday for new parliamentary and presidential elections in Syria.
A Russian lawmaker who met Assad on Sunday said the Syrian president was ready to call elections if necessary but his priority was to defeat “terrorists” first.
Rebels have appealed for more military support from foreign backers, including Saudi Arabia, to confront major Syrian army offensives. Those offensives are backed by Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian fighters as well as Russian air strikes.
“I believe that in the final solution we all want for Syria to be a united country in which all sects live equally and to be a country devoid of any foreign forces,” Jubeir said.
Egypt has yet to publicly answer a call from Russia to take part in future international talks on Syria along with Iran.
Shoukry did not discuss the Russian invitation in the news conference and he denied there was any disagreement with Saudi Arabia over Syria’s future. (Reporting by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Louise Ireland)