Russia, China decline to participate in an international meet on Syria
Damascus, SYRIA – People’s Republic of China has joined Russia on Tuesday while declining to participate in an international meet on Syria. On a day at least 21 people are reported to be killed, a majority of them in the Homs neighborhood of Bab Amr in the heavy bombardment by government forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The London-based activist group said 13 people, including a woman and three children, were killed in the heavy bombardment of the rebel district of Bab Amr, which has been under siege for last 18 days. The neighborhoods of Karm el-Khaldiy and Zaitoune were also the target of government forces for over two hours Tuesday morning, it added.
Expressing fears of further assault on Homs, the activist groups said a convoy of 56 tanks and troop carriers were seen on the road between Damascus and Homs, near the village of Qara, heading towards the major rebel stronghold. China on Tuesday refused to commit to attend the proposed Friday meet of the Friends of Syria group, which is backed by members of the European Union, some Arab nations and the United States, after Russia said it would boycott the meeting aimed at seeking political change in Syria.
The Friends of Syria group, created in response to a joint veto by China and Russia of a UN Security Council resolution condemning a bloody crackdown on protests in Syria, is to meet for the first time this week in Tunis. ”China has received the relevant invitation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing in Beijing. “The Chinese side is currently researching the function, mechanism and other aspects of the meeting.”
Beijing has repeatedly defended its decision. Hong clarified 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 the 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 to pave the way for elections to be held. Russia said Tuesday it would not attend the meeting scheduled on February 24 as it only supported the Syrian opposition’s cause.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said it had not been informed about the agenda or the programme of the meeting, nor details of the participants. In a statement Lukashevich said, “Russia has a lot of questions about the meeting which several Syrian opposition groups have been invited for, but representatives of the Syrian government have not, which means that the interest of the majority of the Syrian people who support the authorities of their country are not being represented”.
He said the meeting in Tunisia wouldn’t help starting a national dialogue as its organizers claim, calling on the international community to act as friends of the entire Syrian people, and not just one part. “It looks like an attempt to form some kind of international coalition like it was with the setting-up of a ‘contact group’ for Libya,” Lukashevich said.
He added that according to some information, a small group of countries are preparing the final document of the meeting without knowledge of other invitees who will be asked to only stamp the already written document, saying “this raises serious questions regarding this document.”
Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said Monday stated that representatives from the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other opposition groups will also be at the meeting, reversing an earlier position that the SNC would not be invited.