Middle East/North Africa

Russia ‘starving civilians’ in Syria, Obama says

President Obama said Tuesday that Russia was complicit in starving civilians in Syria in blunt comments designed to pressure the Kremlin to stop blocking U.N. action.

The comments come after Russia and China skipped a Security Council meeting on a draft resolution that would force Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and the opposition to allow humanitarian access to besieged parts of the country. The world body is expected to bring the resolution up again Tuesday.

“There is great unanimity among most of the Security Council on this resolution,” Obama said. “Russia is a holdout. And Secretary [of State John] Kerry and others have delivered a very direct message to the Russians that they cannot say that they are concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people when they are starving civilians.

“It is not just the Syrians that are responsible — the Russians as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution.”

{mosads}The comments shine a spotlight on Russia at a time when the Olympic host is particularly eager to avoid being portrayed as a global outcast.

In his first lengthy comments on the Syrian crisis since he made the public case for military strikes in September, Obama said there was “enormous frustration” with the lack of a political settlement and warned that “the state of Syria itself is crumbling.”

Obama said he didn’t see a “military solution per se” to the 3-year-old civil war “right now,” but wouldn’t rule it out.

“The situation is fluid,” Obama said, “and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem, because it’s not just heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the Syrian people — it’s very dangerous for the region as a whole, including friends and allies and partners like Lebanon or Jordan that are being adversely impacted.”

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

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Tags Bashar Assad Russia Syria

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