President Barack Obama "made mistakes" and the United States failed in its dealing with the Syrian conflict, an influential member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, told CNBC.
"America has had some big issues with doing the right thing — for example in Syria," Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told CNBC. "In Syria, we see the war continuing after three years. From the beginning Saudi Arabia called for a diplomatic solution."
The high profile prince, who is a former intelligence chief in Saudi Arabia and former ambassador to the U.S., said that Obama had made mistakes in his handling of the 2013 turmoil in Syria — in which President Bashar al-Assad's regime was accused of using chemical weapons against civilians – mainly because of so many domestic distractions.
"The U.S. president is engaged in so many internal issues in America, he inherited the economic breakdown, two wars and other issues of gridlock with Congress and the budget, the government shutdown…but I think on Syria, definitely, he made mistakes."
He believed, he said, that "if there was goodwill on everybody's part, the world can put an end to this tragic and very bloody conflict in Syria."
Prince Turki's comments come at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran emerging as the two big powers in the region vying for influence over surrounding countries. Tensions are also rising with the West over how to resolve regional conflicts.
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Indeed, disagreements with Western powers over how to handle the Syrian conflict prompted Saudi Arabia to reject a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council – which comprises the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France – last October. The country said the council had failed in its duties towards Syria and other conflicts.
Prince Turki said that Saudi Arabia's decision not to take up the rotating seat "made the point that under present circumstances, the UN Security Council is not doing its job."
Tensions with the West rose further last year following the apparent rapprochement between Western countries and Iran over the latter's nuclear development program, in which sanctions against Iran were relaxed in return for a suspension of uranium development above set levels.
Saudi Arabia was not involved in negotiations, a move that added insult to injury following the Syrian conflict.
The decision to leave Saudi Arabia out was "uncalled for" Prince Turki said, adding that the "P5 1" talks should include countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which includes Saudi Arabia. The P5 1 refers to the group of six world powers — the UN Security Council plus Germany — engaged in diplomatic efforts with Iran.
"I've been calling personally as an idea that the P5 1 should become the P5 2 — with the GCC countries included in the negotiations in the nuclear issue between Iran and the P5 1. So far it hasn't happened, but it doesn't mean that it shouldn't happen."