UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia and its partners in the “BRICS” bloc of emerging market economies, which Western powers see as increasingly obstructionist on Syria and other issues, are not looking for a fight, Russia said on Tuesday.
The BRICS group — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — has resisted attempts by the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria, thwarting efforts by U.S. and European officials to punish Damascus for its six-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
But in Russia’s annual speech to the United Nations, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that there was any attempt by the five nations to cause trouble.
“BRICS does not aim at confrontation with anyone,” he told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly. “Its goal is to enhance productive multilateral collaboration to address the urgent problems of the contemporary world.”
By coincidence, all five BRICS nations are currently on the Security Council, where they have managed to block U.S. and European efforts to impose U.N. sanctions on Syria for its crackdown that has killed at least 2,700 people, by U.N. counts.
Some Western diplomats complain that the BRICS countries increasingly favor policies of nonintervention in crises like Libya, Syria and elsewhere.
BRICS members charged that NATO overstepped a U.N. mandate in Libya, although South Africa initially voted in favor of a March 2011 U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized NATO operations to protect civilians in the north African country and enforce a no-fly zone.
Lavrov repeated the BRICS’ criticism in his U.N. speech.
“The attempts to go beyond the UNSC (U.N. Security Council) mandate are unacceptable, since they undermine its authority and multiply the suffering of innocent civilians,” he said.
On Syria, Lavrov repeated Russia’s criticism of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has faced growing street protests demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule.
In response, Assad has sent troops and tanks into cities and towns across the country over the last six months, though he has promised to implement some political reforms.
“As for Syria, it is inadmissible to boycott proposals on a national dialogue, stir up confrontation and provoke violence, while neglecting, albeit late, but still achievable reforms proposed by President Bashar al-Assad,” Lavrov said.
Western diplomats on the Security Council say that Russia, which like China holds a veto on the Security Council, is the strongest opponent among the five BRIC nations to imposing U.N. sanctions on Syria’s leadership.
The Western powers, however, plan to submit a new draft resolution to the Security Council soon that would condemn Damascus and threaten future action if Syria does not halt its crackdown. Such a resolution, European diplomats say, will hopefully be more palatable to the BRICS.
Lavrov confirmed Russia’s support for the Palestinian application for U.N. membership for a Palestinian state, which President Mahmoud Abbas delivered to the United Nations on Friday. Washington has vowed to veto the Palestinian application when and if the Security Council votes on it.
Lavrov also called for stepped-up diplomatic efforts to solve the confrontations over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, saying that ending both of those disputes would improve the global nonproliferation regime.
“We see no alternative to their political and diplomatic settlement and taking concrete steps to create conditions for the resumption of negotiations,” Lavrov said. “We call on all partners to address these tasks with utmost responsibility.” (Editing by Vicki Allen)