Russian Delegation Visit to Syria Viewed with Skepticism
Washington, DC -Today a Russian delegation comprised of Foreign Minister Lavrov and Head of Foreign Intelligence Fradkov concluded talks with Syria’s Assad regime. While the Russians are actively blocking Arab League efforts at the UN they are simultaneously propping up the al-Assad regime diplomatically and through the provision of arms. Human Rights First is skeptical about the nature of these talks and whether they will actually result in an end to Assad’s violent oppression of civilians. “We cannot help but see that while Russia claims to be negotiating a solution that includes talks between Assad’s regime and their political opposition, dozens of peaceful protesters are still being murdered in the streets by the Syrian military,“ said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “The U.S. Government must act immediately to pressure Russia to ensure that atrocities against civilians are in fact ended. One still unused lever is for Secretary Geithner to invoke sanctions against Rosoboronexport for its role in shipping arms to the Assad regime.” As Syria looms on the precipice of civil war, Human Rights First is concerned that proposals to arm Assad’s opposition would not actually decrease atrocities. Instead the actions taken by the U.S. Government and others must remain directed at al-Assad and those enabling his regime’s atrocities. Targeted sanctions should be immediately expanded to include any country, company or individual providing material support to al-Assad while his brutal campaign continues. These sanctions should include Russian arms companies and other entities complicit in these transfers if they do not cease to supply al-Assad with weapons to commit human rights violations. Sanctions should encompass the full range of options from economic sanctions to travel and visa bans.