Western nations boycott Russia meeting on Syria
UNITED NATIONS: Russia called off a meeting planned for Friday of an international action group on the Syria conflict after western nations told them they would not attend, diplomats said. Russia said the meeting at the UN headquarters, called by its UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, had been "postponed."
Diplomats said, however, that the United States, France and Britain had told the Russians they would not attend. Only China and a UN representative had confirmed they would go to the talks, one diplomat told AFP.
"There were consultations before and the countries said they would not be attending," one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"It is not a boycott. At this stage we just cannot see the point of this meeting. The divisions are such that there is no chance of this action group making political agreement on Syria," added a second diplomat.
Churkin said Thursday that invitations had been made and that Russia wanted the international group to set a deadline for the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence.
"The meeting has been postponed at the request of some members of the action group," Russian UN mission spokesman Anton Uspensky told AFP. He said it was not immediately sure whether a new date for the meeting would be set.
The United States had expressed doubts about the point of the meeting on Thursday after Churkin's announcement.
"Frankly, we're not sure we understand the objective and the goal of the meeting," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington. "As we've said all along: to have meetings for meetings' sake is not what any of us needs to do. What we need to do is have meetings that support the Syrian people and support an end to the bloodshed."
Western nations are still angry at Russia and China for three vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions on Syria which condemned President Bashar Assad's actions and threatened sanctions. Russia, Assad's main western ally, has accused the United States and its allies of only seeking regime change.
Posted by: Steve White