Russian PM slams France on Syria, economic crisis

DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES::Dmitry Medvedev criticized France after it became the first European country to recognize the Syrian opposition as Syria’s sole government

Reuters, MOSCOW

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - Page 7

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking before a visit to Paris yesterday, criticized France’s support for the Syrian opposition and accused EU leaders of indecisiveness in dealing with the region’s economic crisis.

France became the first European power to recognize Syria’s new opposition coalition as the sole representative of its people and said on Nov. 13 it would look into arming rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad once they formed a government.

Medvedev, who stepped down as president in May to make way for Vladimir Putin, said such a decision was “unacceptable.”

“The desire to change a political regime in another state through recognition of some political force as the sole sovereign representative seems to me not entirely civilized,” Medvedev told French journalists in an interview cleared for publication yesterday.

Medvedev echoed Putin’s statements that Russia takes a neutral stance and is not seeking to prop up al-Assad, saying that “Russia supports neither Assad’s regime nor the opposition.”

“But ... the question is how right it is to ... decide to support another political force if that political force is in direct confrontation with the officially recognized government of another country. And from the point of view of international law, it seems to me that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Russia and France have been sharply at odds over Syria during a conflict activists say has killed more than 38,000 people since protests began in March last year. France and other Western states have criticized Russia for vetoing three UN Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure al-Assad.

Medvedev is to meet French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during his two-day visit, the first meeting of an intergovernmental commission since Putin and Hollande took office in May and Medvedev and Ayrault took up their posts. Most of the meetings are expected to occur today.

Medvedev said that Russia, which holds 41 percent of its gold and foreign exchange reserves in euros, has been closely following the crisis management of the EU, which accounts for half of Russia’s foreign trade.

“We are following it with suspense because sometime it seems to us that our European partners lack energy and will in their decisionmaking,” Medvedev said.