GENEVA (Reuters) - The ministerial agreement on Syria brokered by U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan on Saturday marked a shift in the positions of China and Russia, which have been at loggerheads with Western powers, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
The two big powers have repeatedly vetoed Western- and Arab-driven efforts at the United Nations to isolate and ultimately have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down to defuse an uprising and launch a democratic transition.
“It’s going to be a long, bumpy road. But we believe sincerely that the commitments made in Geneva on Saturday were genuine and if applied as promised - if applied as promised - will have an effect on the dynamics on the ground,” Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing.
“Don’t forget that many forces have joined hands here on Saturday ... Don’t underestimate the degree of a shift that happened here on Saturday, especially in the Russian and Chinese positions, to accept the principle of a policy change,” he said.
Major powers and neighbouring countries pledged to support a transitional government in Syria although Annan failed to bridge differences between the West and Russia - backed by China - on whether or not that meant Assad must go.
Fawzi said that China and Russia were very supportive of the agreement, in which ministers committed to apply “joint and sustained pressure” on the government and opposition in Syria. Several opposition leaders were going to Moscow “very, very soon”, he said, without giving details.
“So don’t underestimate the fact that there is agreement in principle on a political transition,” he added.
Qatar, Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait had also backed the agreement at the talks and would use their influence to help end the 16-month conflict in Syria, according to Fawzi.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich