September 5, 2013
Until now China had kept a relatively low profile on the Syria issue, occasionally issuing veiled support for the Assad regime. That changed at today’s G-20 meeting in Russia, when China’s vice-finance minister Zhu Guangyao officially launched the Syrian axis of Russia and China, both of which now indirectly support the Assad regime, and oppose US-led military intervention. From the FT: “China warned on Thursday that military intervention in Syria would hurt the world economy and push up oil prices, reinforcing Vladimir Putin’s attempts to talk US President Barack Obama out of air strikes.“Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price – it will cause a hike in the oil price,” Chinese vice-finance minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing before the start of the G20 leaders’ talks.”
This follows Obama’s humiliating backtracking on his “redline” statement from yesterday at Stockholm, which hardly won the punting president much allies in the “world”:
Mr Obama said that he had not set a “red line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria, saying “the world set a red line”, a reference to a global treaty banning their use…. “We as a country and the world are going to have to take tough choices,” he said. Russia and China have made it clear they will veto action on Syria in the Security Council.
Perhaps Russia and China, two of the most important nations in the world, are not part of it according to the US president?
Indeed, the “world” will have enough opportunities to chime in during the 2 day summit, at which Syria will surely be the dominant topic.
The G20 agenda is dominated by economic issues but Syria threatens to overshadow the meeting, as the US Congress debates Mr Obama’s request that it authorise a limited strike to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and deter their further use.
Mr Putin said Mr Kerry had misled Congress earlier in the week, when he claimed he denied that al-Qaeda fighters were playing a larger role among rebel groups.
“As a matter of fact, “the principal combative unit [acting in Syria now] is the so-called [Jebhat a] Nusra, which is an al-Qaeda unit,” Mr Putin said. “And they know this . . . and he is telling an outright lie, and he knows that he is lying.”
UN inspectors examining the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria delivered their evidence to a series of laboratories in Europe on Tuesday, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, though he said it was not clear whether their findings would be published in time to influence the debate in Congress.
“Our work is a scientific process, their work is a political timeline” he said in an interview with the FT, expressing a hint of frustration. He stopped short of urging US political leaders to wait for the outcome of inspectors’ report, but said the international community should get proof before acting.
“I hope during the G20 the world leaders – Obama, Putin, other members of the security council, and other nations, will be able to discuss this matter bilaterally and collectively” he said.
It is unclear if Edward Snowden will make a guest appearance at the summit. It is also unclear if and how many ships China has dispatched in the general direction of the Mediterranean, uncorroborated media reports notwithstanding.
This article was posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 10:53 am