- 29-03-14: Western leaders’ decision to eject Russia from the Group of Eight (G8) is the most visible diplomatic response to date to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine.
Russia’s Influence: Europe buys nearly 30 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. This has led to concern thatPresident Vladimir Putin might turn off a few taps to gain leverage in the confrontation with Ukraine. For now, these fears are overblown – among other things, Europe has a lot of natural gas in storage – but the fundamental worry is well founded. Yet US natural gas exports would do little to reduce Russian leverage. They cannot replace Russian gas in the current crisis since it will be more than a year until any US export terminals are built. Even once these facilities are up and running, the economics of sending shale gas to Europe are unlikely to make much sense. Once the cost of shipping is included, Russian gas is far cheaper; Europe’s politicians should instead put their energy into copying the successful US policies that laid the groundwork for a spectacular boom in natural gas production. This might allow Europeans to produce more gas at home instead of buying it from Russia.
The United States and Russia failed on Tuesday to agree on a date for a Syrian peace conference, remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end the civil war and over who would represent Syria’s opposition.
The proposed peace conference is meant to build on a June 2012 agreement among world powers in Geneva that called for a transitional authority with full executive powers, but did not explicitly say Assad should step down.
Damascus reiterated on Monday that Assad would stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed “Geneva 2” conference.
“Syria – the state, the nation and the people – will remain and … Assad will be president of this country all the time they are dreaming that he isn’t,” the Syrian state news agency quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi as saying on Monday.
Russia said Iran, Assad’s main sponsor, must be invited to any peace talks, after the main Syrian political opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Tehran took part.
The U.S. official said Washington recognized Iran was going to play a role in the region and wanted to ensure it was not a negative one. “But … the United States believes everybody who comes to the Geneva conference should subscribe to the Geneva communique, have made that commitment before they come. Iran has not chosen to do that.”
Saudi Arabia and the United States oppose any invitation for Iran.
Mohammad Javad Zarif told France 24. “We are prepared for everybody with influence to push for (the) withdrawal of all non-Syrians from the Syrian soil.