Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

7 Sep, 2013

It’s Official: India, China, Indonesia, Russia, S. Africa, Brazil, all oppose attack on Syria


Leaders of the world’s most populous countries, India, China, Indonesia,  S. Africa, Brazil, plus Russia, all oppose an attack on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear at his post G20-summit conference. He also went out of his way to specifically note that Indonesia was the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. The following is the full text of his response to the question on Syria at the Press conference. The link to the full transcript is at the end of this dispatch.

Question: Mr. Putin, it can be said without exaggeration that the shadow of Syria was looming over the current G20 Summit, while the Leaders managed to reach mutually acceptable solutions on purely economic issues. With Syria, as far as we know, the participants were split in two over what needs to be done there now. So my question is, how deeply have political disagreements affected – or could still affect – economic decision-making? What future awaits Russia’s relations with the West?

Vladimir Putin: You know, everything that is linked to developments in the Middle East influences the global economy in a very serious way, because the region supplies energy resources to the world – or at least to most countries.

We all know that every time there is a crisis or a conflict in the Middle East, energy prices shoot up. What does this mean? It means suppressed global economic development. So I would say it is counterproductive to destabilize the Middle East at a time when the global economy is going through its own crisis – this is the minimum, and I say this very diplomatically.

We indeed spent much of Thursday night discussing Syria and related issues. We talked long into the night, until 1 a.m., and I had a bilateral meeting with Mr. Cameron after that until 2:30.

You said the meeting was split 50-50 on the issue, but it was not quite so. I can tell you which countries approved a military operation because this is no secret: the United States, Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France. Mr. Cameron used to support this plan as well, but as we know, the country’s parliament – which expresses the will of the British people – voted this down. Germany’s Federal Chancellor is also being very cautious – the country is not planning to participate in any hostilities anywhere.

Which countries were firmly against it? Russia, the People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia – mind you, the largest Muslim country by population – Argentina, Brazil, the Republic of South Africa and Italy. The UN General Secretary was also against fighting. Now let us not forget the most recent address by the Pope, who openly said that starting a new wave of conflict is unacceptable.

I cited the countries whose governments support the exacerbation of conflict in Syria, who support external strikes. But I can assure you that, according to public opinion surveys, the overwhelming majority of their populations are on our side and are against waging hostilities. It would suffice to look at European and US sociological surveys. As many as 60%-70% of respondents are against a military operation.

Finally, the most important issue, something I have already discussed and commented on. I believe that the so-called use of chemical weapons was a provocation staged by militants, by those who count on external assistance from countries that had supported them from the start. This is what the provocation was targeted at. This is my first point.

Second, I would like to remind you that using force against a sovereign state is only possible in self-defense; but Syria is not attacking the United States. The only other reason for military intervention could be a decision by the UN Security Council. As one of the participants in yesterday’s discussion said, “Those who act otherwise are putting themselves outside the law.”

Question: Mr Putin, did you ultimately meet with Barack Obama? I know such a meeting was not planned, but did you meet informally?

Many experts and journalists believe that the United States and Russia have some differences on international politics and explain this by a lack of good relations between you and the US president. You got on very well with Mr Schroeder at one time, but not with Mr Obama. Is this true? What can you say about your relations with Mr Obama?

Vladimir Putin: First, I met with the US President today – we sat and talked for 20 or 30 minutes. In any event, it was a very meaningful, constructive and friendly conversation. It took place in a friendly atmosphere.

We agreed to disagree, but there is a dialogue. We hear each other and understand each other’s arguments, even if we don’t agree. I don’t agree with his arguments and he doesn’t agree with mine. But we hear each other and try to analyze them. Incidentally, we have agreed on some scenarios designed to settle this crisis peacefully. We’ve also agreed that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry will be in touch in the near future to discuss this very sensitive issue.

See the full transcript of Mr Putin’s press conference here