US: Russia can’t have ‘happy Olympics’ and back brutal Syrian regime

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A U.S. official on Friday sharply criticized Russia’s government for not doing more to end violence in Syria.

Using sharp words on the margins of a meeting in California between President Obama and King Abdullah of Jordan, a senior administration official said as long as Russia is “wedded to the status quo this is going to be a difficult problem to resolve.”

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The official also blasted Russia’s “sorry record” at the United Nations, and said Russia President Vladimir Putin’s government can’t celebrate the Olympics while being “part and parcel” of a regime in Syria that brutally kills its citizens.

Russia “can’t have it both ways,” the official said.

“They can’t say they’re in favor of negotiations in Geneva and a transitional government guided by full executive authority and humanitarian access and have a happy Olympics and then be part and parcel of supporting this regime as it kills people in the most brutal way,” the official said.

Obama and Abdullah’s meeting focused on Syria, where violence has increased and where U.S. officials have acknowledged their policies are failing. Jordan increasingly faces a wave of refugees fleeing Syria.

The senior administration official placed much of the blame on Russia.

The official said a large part of what the administration has been doing is to “try to work with and press the Russians to understand that the status quo is not serving their interests either.

“They are much closer to the parts of Syria than we are that are becoming increasingly ungoverned and dangerous,” the official said of the Russians.

The official also said Russia had a “sorry record” as it had twice voted with China to reject “quite anodyne” United Nations resolutions on Syria.

“So I don’t think any of us have any expectation that they are going to turn on a dime,” the official concluded.

It might be possible for Russia to back a United Nations resolution on Syria that was a humanitarian resolution, the official said.

But Russia “can’t have it both ways.

“They can’t say they’re in favor of negotiations in Geneva and a transitional government guided by full executive authority and humanitarian access and have a happy Olympics and then be part and parcel of supporting this regime as it kills people in the most brutal way,” the official said.

Obama didn’t mention Russia in short public comments after the meeting with Abdullah.

“We don’t expect to solve this any time in the short term, so there are going to be some immediate steps that we have to take to help the humanitarian situation there,” Obama said.

Obama announced he would seek a $1 billion loan guarantee for Jordan’s government to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. The guarantee would make it easier for Jordan to access capital markets and to borrow money.

The president will also seek a new five-year memorandum of understanding with Jordan’s government in which the U.S. provides cash and other resources to Jordan.