APEC Meeting is Opportunity for Progress on Syria
Washington, D.C. – As the APEC meeting is underway this week, Human Rights First calls upon Secretary Hillary Clinton to use her side meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to find ways for both countries to actively work together to end the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria. “The fact that Russia and the United States are pursuing diametrically opposite policies in Syria is escalating the conflict in Syria,” noted Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “There is an urgent need for Russia and the United States to agree on the need for a negotiated settlement that can lead to a ceasefire. That agreement could unite the other permanent members of the Security Council and facilitate collective international action to end the conflict.” Last month was most deadly of the 18 month uprising. Human Rights First notes that it is clear that atrocities continue to be committed and the violence in Syria is unlikely to come to an end unless foreign governments can take immediate and decisive steps to work with the regime and the opposition to bring about that outcome. “Amidst reports of civilian deaths climbing well above 20,000 and fighting intensifying by the day, the international community is failing to prevent ongoing mass atrocities,” observed Hameed. “ICC referral for crimes against humanity already committed in Syria during the uprising is one concrete step that both American and Russian authorities are positioned to facilitate. They should use their influence in the UN Security Council to call for the referral of the crimes documented in the Human Rights Council panel report to the International Criminal Court.” Russia has remained supportive of the brutal Assad regime, as demonstrated by use of its UN Security Council veto power to block two resolutions toward an international arms embargo while continuing to provide weapons, ammunition and spare parts to the Syrian regime. Russia has also opposed measures in support of the opposition, such as providing them with arms or establishing no-fly zones. In contrast, the United States has stood behind its call for President Assad to step down from power and continues to provide non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. In addition, the U.S. government and the Arab League are in discussions about more direct support to the opposition such as a no-fly zone. There is also widespread speculation that the U.S. government is helping to arm the opposition.