Russia abstained on the UN vote on Libya but fiercely opposed a resolution in Syria. However, co-operation improved within the Middle East Quartet.
As a member of the UNSC and as a partner of several Greater Middle East states, Russia remains an actor in the region. The prospects for greater co-operation seemed promising following the Russian abstention in the vote on UNSC Resolution 1973, which authorised military action in Libya, in March. However, the EU lacked unity: Germany did not support France and the UK in voting at the UN and aligned itself with Russia in abstaining. By the end of the year, relations between the EU and Russia on the Middle East had soured. Russia launched a war of words on NATO operations in Libya and refused to permit a meaningful UN resolution in response to the violence in Syria. Russia again aligned itself with the other BRICS countries and limited Western attempts to impose sanctions on Syria. Russia also said it would not agree to the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 expiry of the UN mandate. Russia accused the US of violating human rights and fuelling heroin production in Afghanistan, but less than in previous years and with no practical impact. Despite this criticism of the US, Russia co-operated more with the Western-backed Afghan government than in the past.
However, led by High Representative Catherine Ashton, EU–Russia co-operation improved in the Middle East Quartet, the key negotiating forum for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In February, she and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also issued a joint statement that expressed shared concerns on the situation in North Africa and the Middle Eastand condemned the use of military force to break up peaceful demonstrations.More broadly, Russia and the EU are currently negotiating a new draft co-operation agreement that would permit enhanced co-operation in fighting terrorism. The EU and Russia have also been discussing a new framework for crisis management, the legal basis for co-operation in the field. But Russia and the EU did not advance co-operation elsewhere in the region beyond what existed in 2010. Both sides continue to view security co-operation as lagging far behind potential.