Russia to boycott ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting ; China undecided


Russia on Tuesday said it will not attend an international conference in Tunis this week aimed at seeking political change in Syria because the meeting only supported the opposition’s cause, as China refused to commit to attend an international conference in Tunis this week

The meeting was called “for the purpose of supporting one side against another in an internal conflict,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, according to AFP. “We cannot accept the offer to attend this meeting.”

The “Friends of Syria group” will meet for the first time on Friday after being created in a response to a joint veto by Russia and China of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad for the violence.

The group is backed by members of the European Union as well as some Arab nations and the United States.

Russia’s statement said the meeting would be unable to improve dialogue between Assad’s government and the opposition on ways of ending 11 months of violence that opposition sources say have killed more than 6,000 people.

“The invitations to attend the Tunis meeting were issued to some parts of the opposition, but representatives of the Syrian government were not invited,” the statement said.

“This means that the interests of the majority of the Syrian population, which supports the authorities, will not be represented.”

Meanwhile, Russia said the United Nations should send a special envoy to Syria to help coordinate security issues and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter Tuesday that it’s proposing that the U.N. Security Council ask the U.N. Secretary General to send the envoy, according to The Associated Press.

On Monday Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the world body should help solve humanitarian issues in Syria, after Damascus allowed the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid to some regions.

Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict and condemning President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protests that killed 5,400 in 2011 alone, according to the U.N. Hundreds more have been killed since, activist groups say.

China, meanwhile, refused to commit to attend an international conference in Tunis this week after the boycott announcement made by Russia.

“China has received the relevant invitation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.

“The Chinese side is currently researching the function, mechanism and other aspects of the meeting.”

Beijing has repeatedly defended its decision and Hong said Tuesday that China was “willing to play a constructive role with all sides for the peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis.”

An influential Chinese newspaper on Monday also warned that Western support for Syrian rebels could trigger civil war in the violence-hit nation.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun last week travelled to Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad during which he called for all sides to stop the violence and for elections to go ahead.

But Zhai, whose visit coincided with some of the worst violence to date in the flashpoint central city of Homs, said Beijing opposed armed intervention and forced “regime change” in Syria.

Al Arabiya