CAIRO - Saudi Arabia opted to stay away from a meeting of four regional powers on the Syrian crisis on Monday, adding to a sense that the forum is unlikely to advance the quest for peace.
The 'contact group' of Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia was assembled at Egypt's initiative, but an Egyptian official said the Saudi foreign minister was staying away for health reasons, without saying why no one else was coming in his place.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said Saudi Arabia, which attended a preparatory meeting last week, would be absent on Monday, but that it would join in future meetings. There was no immediate Saudi comment.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had an operation last month, keeping him away from official business, but he has been represented at international meetings by Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah.
Diplomats and Western officials have been skeptical that the group can reach any tangible agreement, particularly when it includes both Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, who have tussled for influence in sectarian conflicts across the Middle East.