Russia, China Join Call For Syria To Let U.N. Human Rights Official Visit

Mar 1, 2012

In what Israel's is referring to as a "rare move" by longtime supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, Russia and China today joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in calling on Syria to let U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos see what's happening inside that nation.

Syria so far has not allowed Amos to visit.

Russia and China had previously vetoed Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Assad regime to end its military campaign against opponents — a crackdown that U.N. officials estimate has now claimed at least 7,500 lives.

The Associated Press writes that the Security Council's "press statement ... is not legally binding ... [but] does reflect the growing concern of the council about the impact of the year-old conflict on Syria's civilian population." It's also the Security Council's "first statement on Syria in seven months," the wire service says.

But while joining the Security Council's call for Amos to be allowed into Syria, Russia and China (along with Cuba) today also voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns "widespread and systematic" human rights violations by Syrian authorities.

And during testimony on Capitol Hill today, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman had some sharp words for Russia's position. Russia, he said, "has had interest and influence in Syria for a long time. ... Russia is not going to preserve those interests ... if it basically rides the Assad-Makhlouf Titanic all the way to the bottom of the Mediterranean."

The Makhlouf he referred to is Rami Makhlouf, Assad's cousin and Syria's leading businessman.

(H/T to NPR's Michele Kelemen.)

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