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Munich meeting focuses on Syria

China Daily / Agencies | Updated: 2013-02-01 09:43

Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Song Tao will join leaders from around the world to attend the opening of the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Friday.

The annual gathering, nicknamed "Davos of Defense", is expected to focus on the crises in Mali and Syria, and other major security issues.

US Vice-President Joe Biden will be among the officials, ministers, defense and foreign policy chiefs from 90 delegations at the three-day conference.

Other topics for the participants - including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Israel's outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak - will encompass cybersecurity, the euro crisis and energy issues, organizers said.

Experts said the talks will be a good occasion for interaction.

"It is good for China to hear what others think and to explain its stance regarding security issues," said Feng Zhongping, an expert on European issues at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Founded in 1963, the major topics discussed at the conference have evolved from mainly the security threats in the Euro-Atlantic area to hot issues concerning the whole international community, and security issues have broadened to include new threats such as cybersecurity and fighting pirates, according to Feng.

Unrest in Egypt, developments in the Muslim and Arab world two years after the "Arab Spring" revolts, and NATO's plan to withdraw the bulk of its 100,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 are also set for discussion.

Iran's nuclear program will be another talking point. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents world powers holding talks with Teheran, are due to attend the event.

Despite three meetings in 10 months, crunch talks by the so-called "P5+1" - the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany - with Iran have failed to produce a breakthrough, and a new round has been delayed.

Also of concern for the international community is the 22-month conflict in Syria between forces of President Bashar al-Assad and rebels, which the UN says has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Conference attendees in the southern German city will hear the latest assessments on the situation from Lakhdar Brahimi, the international peace envoy for Syria, as well as a Syrian opposition leader.

Jostling for the headlines with Syria is Mali, which has seen dramatic advances in recent days by French-led forces battling radical Islamists who seized the vast desert north of the West African country 10 months ago.

The French foreign and defense ministers may further discuss France's military mission in its former colony, after a donor conference raised $455.5 million for military operations in Mali as well as humanitarian aid.

"You only have to look at the map to realize the threat the jihadists in Mali pose to Europe," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented on Tuesday.

AFP-China Daily

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