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As France Offers to Recognize Syria Opposition, Russia Cites Geneva Deal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- France has grandly announced that it stands ready to recognize the Syrian opposition as the government. After Thursday's Security Council session, Inner City Press asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin what he thought of the idea.

  Churkin was diplomatic, beginning that "off course people look for various ideas to think of... We need to apply one criteria, how those ideas are correlated with a consensus basis which is reflected in the Geneva communiqué."

  This has been Russia's mantra, the text that was agreed on June 30 in Geneva by the so-called Action Group on Syria. But when Churkin this month invited the members of the Action Group to meet at New York, despite French Ambassador Gerard Araud saying he accepts such invitations, the meeting did not take place.

  The United States, whose Susan Rice was back in the Security Council for Thursday's meetin, and the United Kingdom were said to "boycott" the meeting convened by Russia.

   Inner City Press was told by sources that Germany, too, rebelled. It is not a member of the Action Group, but demanded that if the Action Group met, it immediately report back to the Council. The meeting never happened.

And Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov did not come to the Council on Thursday; neither did Hillary Clinton or Germany's minister Westerwelle. Prior to the meeting, a Syrian diplomat mocked the French meeting to Inner City Press, saying "they got ministers of Togo & Morocco, old French, no Hillary, not even Germany."

  Churkin continued with his answer, that "the Geneva communique does speak about this traditional body composed of, by the representatives of the government and various opposition groups. I'm not sure this idea of a government which will be recognized even before we know what kind of a government this is, that is entirely in line with the ideas reflected in the Geneva document. This is a question I have in my mind as I hear these ideas expressed."

  Several times, Churkin said he didn't want to engage in "polemics" with other Security Council members' foreign ministers. And so he left this one was a question, to which we will continue to seek an answer.

  Of those who came to speak at the stakeout after Thursday's meeting, Inner City Press got in questions not only to Churkin and Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, but also to UNHCR's Gutterez and even to the foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu -- but not to France's Laurent Fabius.

  The French are tightly controlled. But what did they accomplish, really, in their August presidency of the Security Council? Click here for a review by Inner City Press. And watch this site.

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