Published on 5 Sep 2013 Sections , , , , , ,

G20 leaders express concerns over Syria strike

G20 leaders voice their concerns about a military strike on Syria, as Russia and Iran warn the US not to take action against the Assad regime.

The conference is expected to be dominated by US plans for a military intervention in Syria, and Russia’s opposition to those plans. The two respective leaders, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, shook hands as the US president arrived at the conference.

In early talks between members of the BRICS group of countries, concerns were expressed that a military strike on Syria will damage the world economy.

The BRICS groups, which comprises Brazil, India, South Africa, as well as Syrian government allies Russia and China, held talks on the first day of the G20 conference in St Petersburg.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “It was noted within BRICS dialogue that among the factors that could negatively affect the global economic situation are the consequences of the eventual foreign intervention into Syrian affairs.

Nuclear risk

Russia had also issued a warning earlier in the day that a US strike on Syria risked causing a nuclear catastrophe.

Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement that a US strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or on other nuclear facilities, could contaminate the region with radioactivity.

“The consequences would be catastrophic,” he said.

America has made a mistake in Syria and will certainly suffer loss. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Russia’s foreign ministry has submitted a formal request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ask it to consider the implications of a strike on Syrian nuclear installations.

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said on Thursday that the agency is ready to “consider the questions raised.”

‘No military solution’

The global economy is the stated focus of the G20 conference, but the event is inevitably been overshadowed by the possibility of military intervention, led by the US, in the Syrian conflict.

European Union leaders Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso echoed calls from the UN that a political solution is needed to end the bloodshed in Syria.

“There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, only a political solution can end the terrible bloodshed, great violations of human rights and a far-reaching destruction of Syria” Mr Van Rompuy said.

There are no innocent bystanders to the Syrian conflict Peggy Hicks, Global Advocay Director Human Rights Watch

“Too many lives have already been lost and too many people have suffered for too long and lost too much. The Syrian people deserve a chance to restore peace, reconcile and rebuild their country.”

Mr Barroso said: “We all have a duty to act and the European Union believes that efforts should be developed towards a political solution for the conflict and the European Union is indeed providing relief, more than 1.3 n euros so far for the people on the ground who suffer the consequences of this most dramatic situation.”

In an online critique, the Global Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, Peggy Hicks, said:

“There are no innocent bystanders to the Syrian conflict. None of the G20 countries have done all they could to help save Syrian lives, and it’s high time they did. We know what most G20 members are against, but what are they for?”

‘A mistake’

On Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also levelled criticism at the possibility of US military action in Syria.

Ayatollah Khamenei was reported as saying US plans to intervene on “humanitarian grounds” is a pretext to interfere in the country.

A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria. Ban Ki-Moon

“In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext and they say they want to get involved because of humanitarian issues,” Mehr news agency reported the leader had said.

“America has made a mistake in Syria and will certainly suffer loss.”

The US has said it is certain Bashar al-Assad is behind the attack, which it claims killed more than 1,400 people.

‘Political end’

The comments, from Syria’s two strongest international supporters, came as Syria was put on the agenda at the G20 conference in St Petersburg. It will now be a topic for discussion over the formal leaders dinner, with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expected to address the gathering.

Elsewhere, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will hold “sideline discussions” to push for an international peace conference.

Read more from Political Editor Gary Gibbon: President Putin puts Syria on the menu

“While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

“A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria.”

UK rebel support

Meanwhile in the UK, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with the Ahmad al-Jarba, President of the Syrian National Coalition, the political opposition to Assad’s regime.

Mr Hague underlined British support for the rebel group, saying: “President al-Jarba and the people of Syria should be in no doubt that the UK stands fully behind the Syrian National opposition – the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

“They are the best possible hope for a political solution to the crisis and for a future Syria which is stable and democratic.”

Mr Hague said that during the meeting he had confirmed that an emergency package of 5,000 escape hoods, chemical weapons protective equipment, had been delivered to rebels.

Mr Hague said: “The UK’s priority remains a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Achieving lasting peace in Syria will require a government that represents the needs and concerns of all the Syrian people. The UK is working closely with international partners and the National Coalition to help make this a reality.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement that a US strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or on other nuclear facilities, could contaminate the region with radioactivity.

“The consequences would be catastrophic,” he said.

America has made a mistake in Syria and will certainly suffer loss. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Russia’s foreign ministry has submitted a formal request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ask it to consider the implications of a strike on Syrian nuclear installations.

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said on Thursday that the agency is ready to “consider the questions raised.”

‘A mistake’

On Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also levelled criticism at the possibility of US military action in Syria.

Ayatollah Khamenei was reported as saying US plans to intervene on “humanitarian grounds” is a pretext to interfere in the country.

“In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext and they say they want to get involved because of humanitarian issues,” Mehr news agency reported the leader had said.

“America has made a mistake in Syria and will certainly suffer loss.”

‘Political end’

The comments, from Syria’s two strongest international supporters, come as world leaders meet in St Petersburg for the G20 conference.

At the event, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will hold “sideline discussions” to push for an international peace conference.

Read more from Political Editor Gary Gibbon: G20 discord on Syria guaranteed

“While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

“A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria.”

Talks on Syria are likely to be overshadowed by the debate over an international response to the alleged chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Damascus.

The US has said it is certain Bashar al-Assad is behind the attack, which it claims killed more than 1,400 people.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in St Petersburg for the conference, though it is understood he will not be holding a gformal bilateral meeting with Barack Obama, a week after the UK parliament ruled out the possibility of Britain being involved in a military campaign in Syria.

Al-Nusra raid

And while the political manoeuvring continues, in Syria the fighting continues.

On Thursday it was reported that the al-Qaeda linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusrah had entered the town of Maaloula.

Read more: who are the rebel groups fighting in Syria?

The Christian town, in the west of Syria and around 40 miles north of Damascus, has a heavy army presence. However, it was reported on Thursday by an activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that al-Nusrah had entered the town overnight and patrolled streets.

On Thursday morning it is understood that the rebel soldiers left the town, but that fighting continued in the mountains around the town.