Looking beyond the Syrian crisis, Russia and China have bonded with Iran in anticipation of nuclear talks between the six global powers and Tehran, where the presence of a newly-elected leadership has raised modest hopes of convergence.
While world attention was riveted to the Geneva talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, there was frenzied diplomatic activity in Bishkek — Kyrgyzstan’s capital — where three heavyweights, President Vladimir Putin of Russia; and his Chinese and Iranian counterparts Xi Jinping and Hassan Rouhani respectively spent quality time to find common ground in anticipation of receding war clouds over Syria. With India also represented by External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, the core group of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) had the opportunity to exchange notes and embed their endorsement of the Russian initiative to prevent a U.S. military strike in Syria.
The Bishkek declaration endorsed the Russian lead that the Syrian crisis can be resolved on the basis of respect for its sovereignty; ceasefire, which should be followed by a comprehensive political dialogue between the government and the opposition without preconditions; and on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué issued on June 30 of 2012. The declaration also rejected any military intervention not authorised by the Security Council.
Mr. Rouhani reached out to Mr. Putin on the sidelines of the conference by praising his initiative, which he said had raised hopes that a “new war” can be avoided. But more significantly, he invited Moscow as Tehran’s partner in resolving the “Middle East crises”.
Analysts point out that Russia’s active participation as a strategic partner of both Syria and Iran can alter the balance of power in the Gulf and the Levant, which the U.S., Israel and the Gulf petro-monarchies have so far dominated.
The Russians, Chinese and the Iranians share the common geopolitical perception after the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi that “regime change” in Syria is unacceptable.
Mr. Rouhani invited Mr. Putin to visit Tehran — an invitation warmly welcomed by Moscow.
“[Mr.] Putin has been invited to Iran, and he will certainly take advantage of this kind invitation. The dates of the visit will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels,” the Interfax news agency quoted Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman as saying.
During a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Mr. Xi, the Iranian President said Tehran “is ready to launch effective and constructive collaboration with China to help solve regional problems, especially the crisis in Syria”.
On his part, Mr. Xi pledged support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme as well as financial support for oil projects. With unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington, the Iranians have pivoted towards the East by promoting their trade ties with China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
After concluding a deal with Russia on Syrian chemical weapon stockpile, John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, left for Israel to brief its leadership on the deliberations in Geneva.
In Syria, Ali Haidar, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs said on Sunday that the deal cut out in Geneva is “a victory for Syria, which has been won thanks to our Russian friends”.