Last Updated: Mon Feb 27, 2012 13:11 pm (KSA) 10:11 am (GMT)

Russia condemns ‘one-sided’ Syria meeting; China calls U.S. criticism ‘unacceptable’

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the constitutional referendum that Assad staged on Sunday amid the bloodshed as “an important step.” (Reuters)
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the constitutional referendum that Assad staged on Sunday amid the bloodshed as “an important step.” (Reuters)

Russia on Monday slammed as “one-sided” last week’s “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting in Tunis that condemned Damascus for its crackdown and vowed further sanctions against the Syrian regime, as China called “totally unacceptable” Washington’s denunciation of its stand on Syria.

“The meeting that was held in Tunis was clearly one-sided... It is clear to us that this meeting did not help create conditions that would stimulate all sides to seek a political solution,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, according to AFP.

Russia boycotted the Tunis meeting after arguing that its Arab and Western participants were unfairly blaming one side of an “internal conflict” for violence that the opposition estimates has claimed more than 7,600 lives. China refused to attend meeting in Tunis as well.

Moscow has infuriated the West by refusing to single out President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over the deadly crisis and its assertion that both government forces and the opposition bear equal responsibility for the violence.

U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton on Friday called Russia’s position “distressing.”

Lavrov was not asked about Clinton’s comments and did not volunteer any response of his own.

But he stressed that it is the West’s obligation to use its good standing with the Syrian opposition to call “on everyone who is shooting there to halt (the violence) as soon as possible.”

He also welcomed the constitutional referendum that Assad staged on Sunday amid the bloodshed as “an important step” and “movment toward democratization.”

“Super arrogant” Washington

China, meanwhile, called “totally unacceptable” Clinton’s denunciation of its stand on Syria, and a top newspaper said that, after the Iraq war, Washington was “super arrogant” to claim to speak for Arab people.

China’s angry words came after Clinton on Friday called the Chinese and Russian veto of a U.N. resolution on Syria “despicable.”

“They are setting themselves not only against the Syrian people but also the entire Arab awakening,” Clinton said of China and Russia, which have resisted Western and Arab calls to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

China’s defense of its policy was also vehement.

“This is totally unacceptable for us,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing.

“China has always determined its stance on the Syrian issue proceeding from the peace and stability of Syria and the Middle East, and from protecting the long-term, fundamental interests of the Syrian and Arab peoples.”

The spreading bloodshed in Syria, where government forces have been bombarding neighborhoods held by opposition forces, has turned into a broader test pitting Western powers against China and Russia over how forcefully the world should intervene in civil turmoil.

The People’s Daily, the top newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, underscored that rift.

“The United States’ motive in parading as a ‘protector’ of the Arab peoples is not difficult to imagine. The problem is, what moral basis does it have for this patronizing and egotistical super-arrogance and self-confidence?” said a commentary in the paper that cited the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Even now, violence continues unabated in Iraq, and ordinary people enjoy no security. This alone is enough for us to draw a huge question mark over the sincerity and efficacy of U.S. policy,” it said.

Beijing and Moscow are traditionally resistant to international intervention in domestic upheavals, and Russia has close ties with the Syrian government.

On Feb. 5, China and Russia used their veto power as permanent members of the U.N Security Council to block a proposed resolution backing an Arab plan pressing Assad to step down.

The commentary in the People’s Daily repeated China’s argument that its unwillingness to take sides in Syria’s conflict best reflected the interests of that country's people.

“While U.S. foreign policy claims the moral high ground by trumpeting ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, Washington is also constantly flinging epithets at Russia and China,” it said.

The People's Daily commentary was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng,” meaning “Voice of China,” which is often used to give the paper’s view on foreign policy issues.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong said his government hoped that a referendum in Syria on Sunday -- widely rejected by opposition groups as a figleaf for Assad’s power -- could open the way for peaceful reconciliation.

“The outside should not impose so-called plans on Syria,” said Hong. “We hope that this step will help advance a spirit of reform in Syria, launch political dialogue, and answer the reasonable demands of the Syrian people for change and for protection of their own interests.”

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