Tunisia’s Office of the Presidency stated this morning that neither Russia nor China have confirmed their attendance at the Friends of Syria conference, an international meeting that will be hosted in Tunisia on February 24th.
Alexander Linik, press attaché of the Russian Embassy in Tunisia, refused to comment on his government’s intention to participate in the conference.
Russian and Chinese diplomatic delegations met with Moncef Marzouki last Thursday to discuss their participation in the event and to evaluate the deteriorating situation in Syria.
On Sunday, the Egyptian government recalled its ambassadorial staff from Syria to contribute to the increasing international pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Counselor Azza Foued, from Egypt’s embassy in Tunisia, confirmed that Amr Kamel Mohammed, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be participating in the upcoming Friends of Syria summit.
AFP reported that Rafik Abdessalam, Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced today that the Syrian National Council (SNC), a branch of Syria’s political opposition, will officially be invited to participate in the conference, reversing the ministry’s earlier position.
With preparations for the conference underway, a number of political parties in Tunisia have expressed discontent concerning their government’s involvement in mediating the Syrian crisis. A protest against Tunisia’s hosting of the Friends of Syria event, was organized yesterday in Human Rights Square, in downtown Tunis. Othmen Bel Haj Amor, secretary general of the Baath Movement in Tunisia, reported that around 1500 people participated in the protest.
Bel Haj Amor conveyed that his party opposes any external intervention in Syria. “By holding this conference, Tunisia is paving the way for a military intervention in a sister Arab country. This is the conference of the enemies of Syria and not its friends,” he added.
The Unionist Democratic Union (UDU), a Tunisian pan-Arabist movement, also released a statement on the 13th of February denouncing the “Tunisian call to internationalize the Syrian crisis.” The UDU also expressed that this Tunisian initiative to hold the international conference of the Friends of Syria is nothing but “obedience to the dictations of the imperialistic countries aiming at serving the interests of the ‘Zionist Body.’”
According to UN reports, the Syrian regime’s crackdown and the subsequent escalation of violence between the national army and armed elements of the opposition, has resulted in the deaths of 6000 Syrians since the onset of the uprising last March.