Russia criticises giving Arab summit seat to Syrian opposition


  • World
  • Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia expressed "bewilderment" on Wednesday at the Arab League giving a seat formerly held by the Syrian government to a leader of the opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad at a summit in Doha.

Russia, Assad's most powerful protector in the two-year conflict that has killed some 70,000 people, also criticised the U.N. Human Rights Council for putting the whole blame on Damascus and trying to hush up atrocities committed by rebels.

Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib took Syria's vacant seat on Tuesday at the Arab summit, which also has lent its support to giving military aid to the rebels fighting Assad.

"In Doha, another anti-Syria step was taken," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "In fact this is about openly encouraging those powers that unfortunately continue to bet on a military solution in Syria."

"Developments at the Arab League summit in Doha and decisions taken there, regardless of objections by some member states, cause bewilderment to say the least," it also said, adding the summit's decisions contravened international law.

Russia is a long-time arms supplier to Damascus and maintains a naval facility in Syria. It has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions to mount pressure on Assad to end the conflict that started with a crackdown on street protests.

Moscow has been at loggerheads with the West and Arab states that have called on Assad to quit and says his exit from power must not be a precondition for a political solution.

In separate comments on Wednesday, Russia also accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of taking sides in the Syrian conflict after the forum condemned "gross violations" by Syrian government forces and allied militia.

The Geneva-based council had said rebels were also carrying out atrocities, but not on the same scale.

"Guilt for events that took place is put solely on the government side while war crimes, terrorist acts and other acts committed by illegal armed groups are being hushed up on purpose," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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