French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Russia’s refusal to attend an international ministerial meeting on Syria in Paris on Thursday isolated the country from the Arab world and the international community.
“I’ve personally invited [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Mr. Lavrov, and I regret that Russia sticks to a policy that isolates it from both the Arab world and the international community,” Juppe told journalists in Paris.
Foreign ministers from 15 countries, including the United States, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are expected to attend the Paris meeting, which was initiated by the French Foreign Ministry. Moscow declined to the invitation, describing the meeting as "one-sided," just as recent meetings of the so-called Friends of Syria group of countries in Tunisia and Turkey, because no representatives of the Syrian government have been invited.
“Russia’s approach to this kind of meeting is well-known,” he said. “This meeting is apparently aimed not at looking for the basis to launch inter-Syrian dialogue, but just the opposite, at deepening the divisions between the opposition and Damascus by encouraging the international isolation of the latter,” he said.
Juppe said on Wednesday the Paris talks were designed to “convey a message of firmness to Damascus,” as well to demonstrate support for the UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria. But Lukashevich said the initiative looked more like “destructive political amateurism."
His comments echoed Wednesday’s statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who criticized attempts by some countries to “privatize” internationally-backed efforts to end the more-than-year-long crisis in the Arab country. The statement came after Tuesday’s meeting on Syria held by a group of Arab League states in Qatar, some of whose participants raised doubts over the Syrian government’s commitment to the Annan peace plan. Annan himself attended the meeting.
Thursday's meeting in Paris will come just two days after the first meeting of the international working group on sanctions against the Syrian regime held in the French capital. Lukashevich said calls for new sanctions were “against consolidated decisions by the UN Security Council” regarding Annan’s mission.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad last March, according to UN estimates.
A fragile ceasefire has been in place in Syria for a week, although there have been reports of numerous violations of the truce by both government and opposition forces. A group of six UN observers have been deployed to Syria to monitor the ceasefire in line with a resolution approved by the Security Council last week, which provides for a 30-strong monitoring mission to be sent to the violence-hit Arab country.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended the Security Council approve a mission of 300 observers - 50 more than originally planned.