Biden begins virtual summit on democracy
China, Russia furious over democracy summit snubs
WASHINGTON, Nov 24: President Joe Biden has invited around 110 countries to a virtual summit on democracy in December, including major Western allies but also Iraq, India and Pakistan, according to a list posted on the State Department website on Tuesday.
China, the United States' principal rival, is not invited, while Taiwan is -- a move that risks angering Beijing. Turkey, which like America is a member of NATO, is also missing from the list of participants.
Among the countries of the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq will take place in the online conference, scheduled for December 9-10. Traditional Arab allies of the US -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are not invited.
Biden invited Brazil even though its far right president, Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized as having an authoritarian bent and was a firm supporter of Donald Trump. In Europe, Poland was invited to the summit despite persistent tension with the European Union over its human rights record. Hungary, led by hardline nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was not invited.
In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are among the countries on the list. In announcing the summit back in August, the White House said the meeting would "galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights."
China and Russia reacted furiously Wednesday to US President Joe Biden's planned democracy summit, which will exclude them, with Beijing angered over an invitation for Taiwan and the Kremlin branding it divisive.
The global conference was a campaign pledge by the US president, who has placed the struggle between democracies and "autocratic governments" at the heart of his foreign policy.
The inclusion of Taiwan, and not China, led to an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it "firmly opposes" the invitation to "the so-called Summit for Democracy."
Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day, by force if necessary.
Around 110 countries have been invited to the virtual summit, including the United States' major Western allies but also Iraq, India and Pakistan.
But Russia said the guest list, released Tuesday on the State Department website, showed that the United States "prefers to create new dividing lines, to divide countries into those that -- in their opinion -- are good, and those that are bad."
"More and more countries prefer to decide themselves how to live," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that Washington is "trying to privatise the term 'democracy'."
"That can't do so and should not do so," he said.
The invitation is a major coup for Taipei at a time when China is ramping up its campaign to keep Taiwan locked out of international bodies. Taiwan said the gathering would be a rare opportunity to burnish its credentials on the world stage. -AFP