Friday, June 29, 2012

Spoiler or voice of reason? Russia plays major role in Syria crisis negotiations

Russia takes center stage Saturday when the U.S. and other major powers gather in Geneva to try to map out a strategy to end the bloodshed in Syria, where activists say 14,000 people have died since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March last year.

The Americans have the diplomatic clout to arrange such a conference, bringing together the five veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. — as well as Turkey and representatives of the Arab League. Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.

But only the Russians have the influence with Assad to give this latest diplomatic initiative any chance of success.

WHY IS RUSSIA SO IMPORTANT?

Russia is Syria’s most important ally and protector and its main supplier of arms. At the U.N. Security Council, the Russians have blocked the world body from taking strong, punitive action against the Assad regime, including global economic sanctions or military action. The Russians have also consistently opposed any international plan that would demand Assad’s removal from power, although they have said they would not stand in the way of such a formula if all Syrian parties agreed. Read More