State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin met with his Syrian counterpart Hadiya Khalaf Abbas in Moscow. The State Duma delegation would go on a visit to Syria within a year, Mr. Volodin said. He also encouraged representatives of international organizations to join them. The State Duma Chairman also pointed out that any criticism or condemnation of the European politicians, who would agree to visit Syria as part of the Russian delegation, would be unacceptable.
Middle East expert and Russian foreign policy expert Alexei Khlebnikov told the Rethinking Russia think-tank about great untapped potential of interparliamentary diplomacy, a focus of Vyacheslav Volodin’s work as Chairman of the State Duma.
“Parliamentary diplomacy is primarily aimed at polishing the image of a state, improving it in the eyes of another state. It helps one state to become better aware of the events in another state. The format shows considerable potential in the case of Russia and Syria.
Parliamentary diplomacy is a channel to convey a message and disseminate information in other states – for instance, in Europe – which can and should be exploited. We should seek to maximize its effectiveness.
During her Moscow stay, Mrs. Abbas invited the State Duma Chairman to visit Syria. In his turn, Mr. Volodin called on representatives of PACE, the OSCE PA and the European Parliament to undertake a visit to this country. Using the interparliamentary communication channel, European parliamentarians will be able to learn more about the developments in Syria and to see for themselves the situation on the ground rather than rely on the biased image created by many Western media. In this regard, parliamentary diplomacy can bear fruit and impact positively on the situation.
It should be noted that on March 20, PACE President Pedro Agramunt went to Syria together with the delegation of European and Russian politicians. French parliamentarians have also made numerous visits to Syria. Even though Agramunt’s visit was private and he did not travel to the country as a PACE official, he received an opportunity to have a clearer picture of the situation on the ground and to consider it from a different perspective. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that such trips continue, and more parliamentary delegations use this diplomatic channel to visit Syria”.