February 16, 2016 / 7:03 PM / 3 years ago

Hezbollah chief says Turkey, Saudi Arabia prefer war over political agreement in Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and Turkey favored a prolonged war in Syria rather than agreeing to a settlement which would lead to President Bashar al-Assad staying in power.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said the talk that the two countries, which support insurgents fighting to topple Assad, were planning to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State was a pretext for them to “to gain a foothold” there.

“The armed groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey did not deliver so the motive is not fighting Deash but to look for a foothold after all these disappointments that occurred so far,” he said.

Daesh is an derogatory Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“They want to come to find a foothold in the face of the other axis,” Nasrallah told supporters via a video link in a speech during the anniversary to commemorate the group’s late leaders.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some European allies want ground troops deployed in Syria, Turkish foreign minister said, as a Russia-backed government advance nears its borders. This has raised the possibility of direct confrontation between the NATO member and Moscow.

Russian air support for the Syrian government offensive has transformed the balance of power in the five-year-old war in the past three weeks

Nasrallah, whose troops are fighting alongside Syrian, said that the recent advances of the army and its allies have put Syria on a “new track” and that the plans of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to topple Assad have failed. He also said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were driven by their “hatred” to Assad.

“For them, there is no problem if the fighting and destruction continued in Syria for dozens of years, they do not have a problem with that,” he said.

“They are willing to take the region to a regional war or global war but not willing or ready to accept a real political and national settlement in Syria, see the level of hatred and malice,” he told supporters.

Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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