HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday attended the first working session of the G20 Summit in Constantine Palace in Strelna near St Petersburg in the Russian Federation.
Earlier, His Majesty was greeted on arrival by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin later announced the G20 would discuss the Syria crisis over dinner, as it seeks to overcome bitter divisions over a US-led push for military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
With pressure mounting on the G20 group of nations to make concrete progress towards ending the conflict at their summit in Saint Petersburg, the United Nations announced that its special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was on his way to attend the meet to push for peace talks.
Obama arrived in Saint Petersburg from Sweden after clearing the first hurdle in his race to win domestic congressional backing for punitive strikes over the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
In a bid to smooth over the tensions, the two leaders put on a show of smiles for the cameras as they shook hands just before the summit got under way.
Putin opened the summit by revealing that the Syria crisis – which has threatened to overshadow all other items at the meeting – would be formally discussed over dinner.
“Some participants have asked me to give the time and possibility to discuss other… very acute topics of international politics, in particular the situation around Syria,” Putin told the opening plenary session of the meeting on the shores of the Gulf of Finland at a former Imperial palace outside Saint Petersburg.
“I suggest we do this during dinner so that we… in the first part can discuss the (economic) problems we had gathered here for and are key for the G20,” he added.
On the eve of the summit, Putin bluntly warned the West that any military action without UN Security Council approval would be an “aggression” and once again demanded watertight proof of chemical weapons use.
Beyond convincing Russia, Obama has a tough sell ahead elsewhere, with China – another veto-wielding Security Council member state – having already expressed its “grave concerns” over unilateral military strikes.
A political solution is the only way to end the Syria crisis, a senior Chinese official said on Thursday, warning world powers to be “highly prudent” over the issue.
“War cannot solve the problem in Syria,” Chinese delegation spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at the G20.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly ruled out her country’s participation in any US-led military strike against Assad’s regime, while the British parliament has also rejected the idea.
- Borneo Bulletin
(6 September 2013)