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US Congress speaker refuses to meet Russian delegation

Published time: September 05, 2013 10:28
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

The speaker of the US House of Representatives has turned down a proposal to meet with Russian MPs to discuss the situation in Syria. The Duma members plan to visit Washington next week to persuade their American counterparts not to attack Syria.

Number three in Washington's political hierarchy, Congress Speaker John Boehner, a Conservative from Ohio, has turned down a request from the Russian Embassy to hold a meeting with the delegation of lawmakers.

But Russian MPs plan to pay a visit to the Capitol Hill anyway and are currently busy verifying who exactly will be in the delegation.

“We’re planning the visit,” a spokesman of the Russian embassy in Washington told CNN. “We can’t tell you the exact time, but it will be next week,” he said, specifying that members of the upper and lower chambers of the Russian parliament plan to meet with both Republican and Democrat senators and members of Congress.

“I believe we can maintain a dialogue with our partners from the Congress, exchange opinions and arguments for a better understanding of each other,” Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko shared, stressing that in absence of solid arguments the US Congress would turn down the proposed military operation against Syria.

“The speaker has declined the Russian embassy’s request that he meet with a delegation," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already voted on Wednesday to approve President Barack Obama's plan to strike Syria in retaliation for the reported use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad’s regime, so the Russian delegation is visiting the US in a highly-charged political situation.

The former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Dick Lugar has no doubt that the Russian delegation will be given a cold shoulder on Capitol Hill.

“At this particular point, my understanding has been that relations between members of Congress and the Russian parliament have been very sour,” Lugar told CNN, adding that a delegation from Russia won’t make any difference “in terms of congressional votes.”

As the G20 summit begins in Russia’s St. Petersburg, Russian-American relations are only getting worse because of the countries’ polar-opposite stances on the Syria issue.

While the US authorities are preparing an assault on Syria bypassing the UN Security Council as the only legitimate supranational body, Moscow warns Washington against the presumptuous actions.

“We believe that at the very least we should wait for the results of the UN inspection commission in Syria,” President Vladimir Putin said in an interview to the Associated Press and Russian state TV Channel 1.

Later, Putin hammered the US secretary of state, saying that John Kerry lied to the American Congress by claiming there are no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that an assault against President Bashar Assad’s forces would not stir terrorist activities there.

“They lie, plainly. I watched the Congressional debate. A congressman asked Mr. Kerry ‘Is there any Al-Qaeda [in Syria]? There are reports they have been growing stronger.’ [Kerry] replied, ‘No. I say with all responsibility: there is no [Al-Qaeda] there,’” Putin said.

He explained that the most active terrorist organization in Syria, the so-called Al-Nusra Front, pledges allegiance to Al-Qaeda and that the US is well aware of that.

“Well, [Kerry] is lying. And he knows that he’s lying. This is sad,” Putin remarked.

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