UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia and China joined other U.N. Security Council members on Thursday in expressing “deep disappointment” at Syria’s failure to allow the U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos to visit the country and urged that she be allowed in immediately.
The 15 nations on the council also said in a unanimously agreed statement that they “deplore the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Syria, where the United Nations says security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians during an 11-month government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
“The members of the Security Council call upon the Syrian authorities to grant (Amos) immediate and unhindered access,” said the statement, which was read to reporters by British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
The statement also urged Damascus to grant “full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance.”
Britain holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month.
It is the first statement on Syria from the council, which has been deadlocked on the issue for months, since August 2011, when it rebuked Damascus in a so-called “presidential statement” for the escalating violence there.
Since that time, Russia and China have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Damascus and calling for an end to the violence, saying Western and Arab nations are pushing for Libya-style “regime change” in Syria.
It was not immediately clear whether their decision to support the statement on Syria meant Moscow and Beijing would now be willing to back a legally binding resolution.
Russia, China and Cuba voted against a resolution adopted overwhelmingly on Thursday by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council which condemned Syria for violations that it said may amount to crimes against humanity.
Speaking on behalf of Britain, Lyall Grant told reporters “the brutalization by the Syrian regime of its civilians ... is horrendous, it is abhorrent and the full frontal assault that is now happening in Homs, we condemn it utterly.”
The United States has drafted an outline for a new Security Council resolution on Syria, this time to demand access for humanitarian aid workers in conflict-torn towns and an end to the violence there, Western envoys said on Tuesday.
The newly appointed U.N.-Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, met with his successor Ban Ki-moon and the permanent members of the Security Council on Thursday, U.N. diplomats said.
Lyall Grant declined to comment on the meeting with Annan.
Annan, too, hopes to visit Syria soon to meet with Syrian officials, though like Amos he will need Damascus’ permission. Annan was appointed after the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution last month calling for an envoy to be named to push implementation of an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
Diplomats said Washington was consulting with Britain, France and other allies, including Arab states, in the drafting process. A senior Western diplomat said it was unlikely they would have a text ready to present to the full 15-nation Security Council before Russia’s March 4 presidential election.
While the U.S. draft focuses on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Western diplomats said it would have to make clear that the cause of that crisis is the government’s crackdown on protesters opposed to Assad.
That, diplomats said, could make it difficult to secure Russian and Chinese support for the draft.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the March 4 election and return to the presidency. He has repeatedly accused NATO of overstepping its U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya and said that Moscow did not want that repeated in Syria.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham