March 1, 2012 / 1:06 PM / 5 years ago

Russia hopes Syria will let U.N. envoy in-Itar-Tass

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia hopes Syria's government will let U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos into the country soon, the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying in Geneva on Thursday.

Russia has vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have condemned President Bashar al-Assad's government and warned he West against interference in Syria, but has expressed support for international humanitarian relief efforts.

The Russian Foreign Ministry hopes that "the Syrian government, displaying a constructive approach, will respond positively to the arrival in the country of U.N. humanitarian coordinator Valerie Amos," Itar-Tass quoted Gatilov as saying.

Amos said Wednesday that authorities had refused to allow her to visit Syria. That was an embarrassment for Russia, which has close ties with Assad and which, according to one senior Western diplomat, had lobbied Damascus to welcome Amos.

Gatilov has this week indirectly criticised Western powers for failing to persuade Syrian rebels to cease fire - a condition, he said, for improving the humanitarian situation.

Russia has been increasingly isolated in its support for the government of Syria, Moscow's firmest foothold in the Middle East. Syria has bought billions of dollars worth of weapons from Russia and hosts a naval maintenance facility that is Russia's only military base outside the former Soviet Union.

Since Russia and China blocked a resolution supporting an Arab League call for Assad's exit on February 4, Moscow has welcomed further efforts to help solve Syria's crisis in the U.N. Security Council, where it has power to shape policy, while warning adamantly against outside intervention.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, expected to win a six-year presidential term Sunday, said in an article published on Monday that Western nations were using humanitarian concerns to press their agendas abroad and remove governments they dislike, as he argues occurred in Libya last year.

Russia has suggested it is open to a potential U.N. Security Council resolution focusing on humanitarian relief, but its insistence that rebels share the blame for Syria's bloodshed and its opposition to external pressure for Assad's exit are obstacles to agreement in the Security Council.

Russia, China and Cuba voted against a resolution adopted overwhelmingly by the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thusday that condemned Syria for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

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