On Thursday, Reuters reported that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from 68 countries in Washington, D.C. between March 22-23 to discuss the US-led anti-Daesh coalition's next moves amid the terror group's gradual retreat in both Syria and Iraq.
This will be the first meeting of its kind since December 2014, a few months after Washington and several of its allies first began airstrikes against the terrorists.
Later, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner clarified to reporters that Russia, as well as Iran and Syria, would not be participating in the high-level meeting. Instead, in addition to the US, the meeting is expected to include Washington's NATO allies, plus Australia, New Zealand, several Middle Eastern countries and several Gulf States.
Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov, an expert on foreign affairs issues, commented on Moscow's exclusion from the meeting by suggesting that it was absurd to hold a conference on how to defeat Daesh without including Russia. On Thursday and Friday, Pushkov tweeted that the ministers from the US and its allies can meet and discuss ways to defeat the terror group until the cows come home, but without Russia victory will be impossible.
68 стран, входящие в западную коалицию, будут обсуждать борьбу с ИГ без России. Встречаться и обсуждать без России можно - победить нельзя.— Алексей Пушков (@Alexey_Pushkov) 9 марта 2017 г.
"The 68 countries that are members of the Western coalition will discuss the fight against Daesh without Russia. They can meet and discuss without Russia, but cannot achieve victory without it."
Together with the Syrian Army, as well as Iranian, Kurdish and Hezbollah units, Russia has played a decisive role in the fight against Daesh ever since September 2015, when at the request of the Syrian government, it began a massive campaign of airstrikes against the terrorists operating in Syria. Furthermore, Russia was engaged in fighting the terrorists even when several US allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were actively supporting Daesh with financing, weaponry and logistical support.
Pushkov noted as much, pointing out in a second tweet that Russia, Iran and Syria, three countries "which are really fighting Daesh, have not been invited to Washington. Instead, dozens of countries have been invited which are there just for decoration."
Три страны - Россия, Иран, Сирия, к-ые реально сражаются с ИГ, не приглашены в Вашингтон. Зато приглашены десятки, к-ые нужны лишь для вида.— Алексей Пушков (@Alexey_Pushkov) 10 марта 2017 г.
"Three countries – Russia, Iran and Syria, which are really fighting Daesh, have not been invited to Washington. Instead, dozens of countries have been invited which are there just for decoration."
On Thursday, the US-led coalition launched 22 airstrikes against Daesh as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The strikes hit targets in Syria, including the de-facto Daesh capital of Raqqa. The coalition's campaign in Iraq has received the support of the Iraqi government, but those in Syria are not authorized by the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.