Commodities: U.S., Saudi Arabia to Increase Support for Syrians Fighting Islamic State

By Jay Solomon And Ahmed Al Omran 
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RIYADH–Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Salman agreed to increase support for Syrian forces fighting Islamic State militants while backing international diplomatic efforts to begin a political transition in Damascus, U.S. and Saudi officials said.

The U.S. diplomat and Saudi monarch also coordinated on their countries’ joint efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that has gained control over large sections of Syrian and Iraqi territory in recent months.

“The secretary thanked the king for Saudi Arabia’s support to multilateral efforts to pursue a political transition in Syria…and reaffirmed our mutual goal of achieving a unified, pluralistic and stable country for all Syrians,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said after Mr. Kerry’s meeting on Saturday night with the Saudi monarch.

Mr. Kerry also had a dinner meeting Saturday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Mr. Kirby said.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia provide arms and training to rebel armies fighting in Syria. Washington, though, has refrained from backing insurgents who are directly fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Mr. Kerry has intensified his efforts to end more than four years of fighting in Syria. His initiative has been complicated by the joint military efforts of Russia and Iran in Syria that are aimed to bolster the Assad regime, which began late last month.

Mr. Kerry held a string of meetings in Europe and the Middle East over the past week that were aimed at renewing international talks on the Syria question. The U.S. secretary of state said he is seeking to help stage a broad international conference on Syria as early as next Friday that will include all of the region’s major economic and military players who have influence on the Assad regime and its opponents.

Mr. Kerry has said in recent days that it is unclear if Iran, one of Mr. Assad’s primary backers, would take part.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister indicated his government still has strong objections to Iranian participation.

Mr. al-Jubeir told reporters on Saturday night that Iran is an “occupying force” in Syria that exports terrorism. He also said Riyadh sees no future for Mr. Assad in Syria, even as part of a political transition in the country.

U.S. and European countries have softened their positions on Syria in recent months, saying Mr. Assad could potentially be a part of a transition in Damascus, if he agrees to exit his office in the longer term.

Mr. Kerry and King Salman also discussed the conflicts in Yemen and Libya, Mr. Kirby said.

Write to Jay Solomon at and Ahmed Al Omran at