Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said on Tuesday that Russia will not attend the “Friends of Syria” international conference, in Tunisia. According to the press release from the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Russia’s decision is due to the fact that only opposition groups are invited.
The press release also asserted that, with the absence of any Syrian government representation, it seems as if “We are talking about slapping together some kind of international coalition as was the case in organizing the Libya Contact Group in order to support one side against the other in an internal conflict.”
However, the Russian press release did acknowledge the necessity of humanitarian assistance stating, “We suggest that members of the Security Council ask the UN Secretary General to send a special envoy to Syria to negotiate with the government and all other parties to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian goods, Russia is ready for honest team work in this direction in the UN.”
The “Friends of Syria” conference will be held in Tunis, Tunisia on Friday, February 24th, and aims to bring together all nations on finding a resolution to the Syrian crisis. Tunisia initiated the first session of this conference during an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council last week.
The “Friends of Syria” is a group of nations created by France and the United States as a response to a joint veto by Russia and China of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad for the violence.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé, as well as the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be participating in the Friends of Syria’s inaugural conference.
For almost a year, Syria has been experiencing continuous anti-government protests and violence. According to the U.N, the total number of deaths in the country has exceeded 5,400 in 2011 alone.
Update: According to AFP the press attache of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hong Lei confirmed today, February 21, that China will not commit to sending a diplomatic mission to the Friends of Syria conference in Tunisia. After confirming the receipt of the invitation, Lei stated, “The Chinese side is currently researching the function, mechanism and other aspects of the meeting.”
Adnan Mansour, the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that Lebanon would also refrain from sending a delegation to the event. In an interview on OTV Television Station Mansour said, “In compliance with the country’s disassociation policy, Lebanon will not participate in the conference in Tunis.”