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Russia, China boycott Syria conference

The Tunisian capital, Tunis, is hosting an international conference on Syria, minus Russia and China ??? two key members of the United Nations Security Council ??? amid suspicions that the meeting, backed by the West, will seek fresh avenues to remove Bashar al-Assad from the Syrian presidency.The meeting of the Friends of Syria is taking place outside the fold of the United Nations, where Russia and China have blocked moves to unseat Mr. Assad.Analysts say the meeting in Tunis resembled a similar effort earlier to form the Libya Contact Group, which played a considerable part in forcing the exit of Muammar Qadhafi, who was eventually executed.At the conference, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), urged participants to allow the group to import weapons and benefit from military support from member countries in order to achieve its political goals. ???If the regime fails to accept the terms of the political initiative outlined by the Arab League and end violence against citizens, the Friends of Syria should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves,??? it said in a statement.The conference is expected to designate the SNC as the ???legitimate??? representative of the opposition, just short of accepting it as a government-in-waiting. Later, the conference, is likely to ask Syria, in the form of a declaration, to announce a ceasefire and permit humanitarian assistance in the areas that are badly engulfed in violence.Citing their support for the principle of sovereignty, both Russia and China say that the Tunis conference is heading in a direction of achieving ???regime change??? in Syria. Explaining his government’s stand, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said: ???The opposition is invited, the legal authorities are not. This means we have here what we had in Libya: a contact group was created. There is a feeling that it all



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