Russia says Syria meeting in Paris will isolate Assad, damage chances of peace
Russia has decided not to attend Thursday’s talks on Syria in Paris, saying they could isolate the Syrian regime and damage the chances of peace, though France says the talks will send a strong message to the rulers in Damascus.
French foreign minister Alain Juppé said ministers from the US, Germany, Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere would, send "a message of firmness and support for Kofi Annan," the joint UN-Arab League envoy pushing the peace plan in Syria.
Russia said the meeting differed little from two previous Friends of Syria conferences that Moscow also skipped because they included calls for Assad's removal.
Its foreign ministry said the Paris meeting was as "one-sided" as the Friends of Syria talks because it failed to include representatives from the Syrian regime.
China meanwhile said on Thursday it was considering sending observers to monitor a Syrian ceasefire that came into force last week but is under threat as violence escalates.
His comments come after French president Nicolas Sarkozy said China and Russia were currently isolated on the Syrian issue, but predicted the two countries would eventually join the rest of the international community against Damascus.
China and Russia both drew international criticism earlier this year for
vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions on the Syria crisis which were
critical of Assad.
Syrian troops continued to pound rebel strongholds on Wednesday, including
Homs, even while the regime sought to reassure an increasingly sceptical outside world
that it is committed to a week-old ceasefire.
Sarkozy on Thursday compared Assad's campaign to the Libyan regime's
attacks on the city of Benghazi.
"Bashar al-Assad is lying in a shameful way, he wants to wipe Homs from the map like (former Libyan strongman Moamer) Kadhafi wanted to wipe Benghazi from the map," Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio.
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