LONDON, United Kingdom – Russia and China are paying “a diplomatic price” across the Arab world for their opposition to international action against Syria’s ruling regime, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.
China and Russia have already vetoed two United Nations resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown and calling for President Bashar Assad to step down.
Members of the U.N. Security Council began discussions this week over a possible new resolution, though it’s unclear whether alternative language in the latest draft would be sufficient for the two nations to drop their objections.
“While we should not be starry-eyed about this, it’s certainly true that China and Russia are paying a diplomatic price for the position that they have taken,” Hague told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs select committee. “Throughout the Arab world they are paying that price — particularly in the opinion of the people of many Arab nations.”
Hague said nations at the U.N. must continue to work on agreeing to “a meaningful resolution” that supports the work of the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.
“If our view is correct that the Assad regime cannot recover its credibility internationally, or internally after spilling so much blood — and that one way or another it is doomed, then it is in the national interest of Russia and China to support a political transition at some stage,” Hague said.
Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday dismissed Western hopes for a shift in its stance as “wishful thinking,” while China on Thursday said its special envoy had held talks with Syria’s foreign minister and opposition figures during a visit to the country. Li Huaxin reiterated Beijing’s belief that the Syrian crisis could be settled peacefully through dialogue.
Hague told legislators that Britain may be prepared to offer equipment to Syria’s opposition, but said there were concerns over whether it would be possible to deliver items into Syria and fears they could end up in the hand of extremists.
“We can help and we will continue offer help to peaceful Syrian opposition groups,” he said. “I don’t rule out giving more nonlethal help.”
Hague acknowledged it could be possible to replicate the aid that had been offered to Libya’s rebel forces where Britain supplied body armor and communications equipment.
However, he said worries that al-Qaida-linked extremists were operating inside Syria could pose a challenge.
“That is a consideration in trying to provide practical assistance,” he said.
In Athens, Greece’s Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas met with Syrian opposition representatives to discuss a peaceful end to the country’s yearlong uprising. A representative from the Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, one of the Syria’s two main opposition groups, said his group is committed to a non-violent transition to democracy.
Separately, Turkey’s president said France would be invited to an upcoming diplomatic conference on Syria despite a diplomatic dispute over mass killings of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said during a visit to Tunisia that he wants “the largest possible participation” in the next so-called Friends of Syria conference.
Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria, and France, Syria’s former colonial ruler, have been calling for stronger world action on Syria. But Turkish-French relations have stalled over a French law making it a crime to deny that mass killings of Armenians in 1915 constituted genocide.
Source: Associated Press