US says Russia, China narrow gap with world on Syria

The United States said Wednesday that Russia and China have moved closer to the rest of the world in condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown of an opposition revolt.

The points agreed in Cairo on Saturday between the Arab League and Moscow "are an improvement over where we had been previously in some of the Russian positions," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"They begin to close some of the gaps," Nuland told reporters.

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Russia and the Arabs agreed on "unhindered humanitarian access," an end to the violence, the establishment of a mechanism for "objective monitoring" in the country, and no foreign intervention. China then welcomed the plan.

Nuland indicated she was encouraged by further statements from Moscow and Beijing, which have been criticized by Washington for twice vetoing UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syria violence.

"You're now seeing public statements, both from Russia and from China, that are quite clearly saying that they are not interested in protecting Assad, that they are not interested in anything but something that ends the violence," she said.

"So are we there yet? No, we're not there yet, but we are continuing to work on this, but we have seen an increasing convergence," Nuland said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday criticized Assad for the "big delay" in reform in Syria, saying Damascus was failing to swiftly follow Moscow's advice.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called for an immediate truce and for protection of civilians, adding: "China respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for change and for the pursuit of their own interests."

However, it was not immediately clear whether both powers were any more likely to back any new UN resolution on Syria. China and Russia have said the past UN resolutions were unbalanced and only sought to replace Assad.

by Stephen Collinson © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 14, 2012