Russia’s “Friends of Syria” Snub -- As Seen From Moscow
Russia won’t be joining the “Friends of Syria” group for its upcoming summit in Tunisia. Why? Because Moscow sees it as a repeat of the ‘Contact Group on Libya,’ which helped lay the groundwork for foreign military intervention.
MOSCOW -- Russia on Tuesday turned down an invitation by Arab countries to take part in the "Friends of Syria" group, which has active support from the United States and the European Union. Moscow is concerned that the conference – slated to take place on Friday in Tunis, Tunisia – will become an excuse to interfere in the Syrian conflict - just as happened in Libya.
"Many different opposition groups were invited to Tunis, but the Syrian government was not invited to the conference," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said in a rebuke to the conference organizers. "That means that the interests of the majority of Syria's population, which support the government, will not be represented." He went on to say that the conference "brings up more questions then it does answers."
Lukashevich complained that Russia was not given a list of the other conference invitees, nor an agenda of the day's events. He said also that a group of governments among the "Friends of Syria" – without input from the other invitees – have already been working on a document "that they will then just ask the other invitees to rubber-stamp."
"You get the feeling that we're talking about creating some kind of international coalition, just as was the case with the ‘Contact Group on Libya," with the goal of supporting one side against the other in an internal conflict," the Russian diplomat concluded.
Russia thinks that the Syrian problem should be resolved under the aegis of the United Nations, so that "all members of the world's societies can act as friends of the entire Syrian people, not just one part of it."
For some of "Syria's Friends," Russia's decision to turn down the invitation may not actually have been all that upsetting. After the Tunisian government, acting in its capacity as hosts of the forum, sent the invitation to Moscow, Washington was quick to point out that the list of invitees was supposed to include only those countries which had already shown their support for the Syrian people by supporting the U.N. resolution and the Arab League's suggestion regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. "And with regret," said Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the State Department, "China is not in that category. Nor is Russia."
Responding to Russia's decision not to participate in the talks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to use Friday's meeting in Tunis to "send a clear message to Russia, China and others who are still unsure about how to handle the increasing violence, but are up until now unfortunately making the wrong choices."
It is noteworthy that China, unlike Russia, is trying to keep a low profile in the matter. On Tuesday, the representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hong Lei confirmed that Beijing had received the invitation to the conference in Tunis. But the Chinese diplomat shied away from a straight answer on whether or not China would accept.
"China continues to study the goals and mechanisms of the meeting," Hong Lei said. "China welcomes all measures that could facilitate a peaceful resolution to the Syrian problem."
Read the original article in Russian
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