China joins Russia to boycott Paris talks |
Gulf Today - 06 July, 2012
China joined Russia on Thursday in boycotting a meeting aimed at co-ordinating efforts to stop the killing in Syria, where three senior army officers were among the latest to be killed.
Moscow confirmed that some Western countries had asked it to offer Syrian President Bashar Al Assad a haven in exile, saying it had dismissed the idea as a joke.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Western nations had asked Moscow to offer Assad asylum and that Russia had thought it was a joke.
He said the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during June 1 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China would not attend the so-called “Friends of Syria” gathering in Paris on Friday. China “at present does not consider attending the meeting,” Liu said.
Russia has also said it will stay away from the meeting after accusing the West of seeking to distort a weekend deal by world powers in Geneva aimed at achieving a transition of power.The violence in Syria has reached unprecedented levels, the head of the country’s UN observer mission said on Thursday, insisting there must be a cease-fire in order for his teams to resume their work.
“The escalation of violence, allow me to say, to an unprecedented level, obstructed our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue,” Norwegian Major General Robert Mood told reporters in the Syrian capital Damascus.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad insisted he enjoyed popular support in his own country and said foreign intervention was mainly to blame for the conflict, in an interview published Thursday.
“At the end of the day, we are human too,” he told the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.
“We can make mistakes,” he conceded, referring to his administration’s handling of the public protests that erupted in March last year.
But the president insisted that outside intervention was responsible for the conflict in his country. He accused foreign backers of financing the protests.
“The role of the foreign intervention outweighs our own mistakes and it is way more destructive,” he told the daily, which published the two previous parts of the lengthy interview in previous days.
Assad said he had the backing of the Syrian people, who kept him in charge of Syria despite “the petty calculations of everybody else.”
He added: “I would have already been toppled without the support of the Syrian people.”
On the eve of the Paris meeting, Amnesty International called for an immediate arms embargo on the Syrian government and for caution over the supply of weapons to rebels.
“Amid growing reports of abuses by members of the armed opposition, states should also stop arms transfers to the opposition wherever there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for war crimes or other human rights abuses,” it said.
Another general became the 15th such high-ranking officer to flee the conflict-wracked nation when he defected to Turkey on Wednesday, a Turkish diplomat said.
Referring to Turkey, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Syria to find a political solution to its crisis and warned against any new incidents with Turkey after Damascus shot down a Turkish warplane.
“I would expect that the Syrian authorities will do all they can to avoid any escalation and any such unacceptable incident as we saw when they shot down a Turkish aircraft,” Rasmussen said in Ljubljana.
“It goes without saying that Turkey can count on Nato. Nato is of course prepared to defend Turkey if it is so necessary,” he added.
Syrian troops rained shells on several areas of the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, where anti-regime sentiment is strong, as a total of 27 people were killed across the country, monitors said.
They shelled Maaret Al Numan, site of frequent violence, killing six people including a man, a woman and their child, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.