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Council of Europe urges Russia to back UN action on Syria

Council of Europe top official Jean-Claude Mignon on Wednesday urged Russia to back UN action aimed at halting the killing in Syria, saying that it has the duty to act.

“We hope that Russia does not forget its engagements within the Council of Europe, and that it adopts the same attitude in the UN Security Council to vote for the resolution,” said the president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly.

“Neither the Security Council nor the Council of Europe intends to interfere in Syrian domestic affairs, but here we are confronted with a humanitarian tragedy.

“I think that it is our duty, even a question of our honour, to step forward,” said Mignon, calling the situation in Syria “intolerable.”

“The defence of human rights is something universal and while Syria is not within the scope of the Council of Europe, we have already spoken out in other circumstances, such as the Arab Spring,” Mignon told AFP.

Some 6,000 people have been killed in Syria since the pro-democracy uprising began in mid-March, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

Western powers and the Arab League are pushing for immediate UN action to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “killing machine.”

Russia has so far refused to give its support, but on Wednesday, Juppe said Moscow’s attitude is softening, though Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said, “If the text is unacceptable then we will vote against.”

Mignon pointed out that Russia has been a member of the 47-state Council of Europe since 1996, and subscribes therefore to the European body’s main vocation of defending human rights and democracy.

“I do not see how the Council of Europe can remain deaf before such a dramatic situation that Syrians are going through,” said Mignon.

“A resolution denouncing the bloody repression and calling for a democratic transition in Damascus is indispensable today, as well as the introduction of sanctions if the demands made by the international community are not respected,” he added.