Syrian FM to Boycott Euro-Mediterranean Conference
Syria's foreign minister will boycott this week's Euro-Mediterranean (Euromed) conference because the European Union has not adopted a firm stance on the situation in the Palestinian territories, an Arab diplomat said Tuesday.
Faruq al-Shara has "decided not to go to Marseille," the diplomat told AFP, adding that other Arab countries were to attend the conference at ministerial level.
"Some last-minute talks (amongst Arab leaders) took place overnight, but with no success on a full Arab participation," he said, explaining the meeting was cut short because of Damascus' opposition to attending the conference in the absence of a "firm European Union position" on the Palestinian territories.
The talks, which have taken place over several days in Doha on the sidelines of the Islamic summit, "took a turn for the worse because of differences between the Palestinian and Syrian delegations on whether to take part in Marseille".
"The decision by the Palestinian Authority to participate in the conference even in Syria's absence has raised tension between the two parties."
An unhappy Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "interrupted his participation in the Islamic summit and returned home Monday before the summit's closure", the diplomat said.
Assad decried the split amongst the Arab countries on whether to take part in the Euromed forum or not, "especially as Syria had been named coordinator of the Arab group", he said.
Syria and Lebanon have both backed postponing the conference because of the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which they said would make a meeting with the Israelis "extremely difficult".
And Libya, which is not a full Euromed member but enjoys a special status and was invited to the meeting by France, said Sunday it would not attend the forum because of Israel's participation, urging other Arab nations to follow suit.
The European-Mediterranean Partnership was created in Barcelona in November 1995, bringing together 27 countries and territories.
They include the EU's 15 nations and their 12 Mediterranean partners: Algeria, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey -- DOHA (AFP)
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