U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron risked newly improved relations with Russia by saying countries that refuse to condemn Syria’s regime have blood on their hands.
Russia prompted condemnation from Britain and other countries in July when along with China it refused to back a resolution at the United Nations aimed at increasing pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go amid mounting violence.
Speaking to the UN in New York today, Cameron cited a report this week by charity Save the Children, which said Assad’s forces have used schools as torture centers and children as target practice.
“The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations,” Cameron told the 67th General Assembly. “And in particular, a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted Assad’s reign of terror.”
His comments come amid a new thaw in ties between Britain and Russia, with President Vladimir Putin holding talks with Cameron last month during his first trip to Britain in seven years.
Relations soured over the 2006 death of dissident ex-Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko in London and leaders of the two countries didn’t meet for five years until Cameron visited Moscow last year. Intelligence cooperation remains suspended.
Russia, whose ties with Syria’s ruling elite date to the Cold War, has used its UN Security Council veto three times to protect Assad from censure. Putin has said any overthrowing of Assad would push Syria into civil war.
The U.K. today announced 8 million pounds ($13 million) in further humanitarian aid to help Syrians refuges, including 250,000 children, as well as those inside the country cope with winter conditions.
Cameron used his UN speech to say the international community should help nations to build on progress made since pro-democracy uprisings erupted across the Middle East.
“One year on, some believe that the Arab Spring is in danger of becoming an Arab Winter,” he said. “They point to the riots on the streets, Syria’s descent into a bloody civil war, the frustration at the lack of economic progress and the emergence of newly elected Islamist-led governments across the region.”
“But they are in danger of drawing the wrong conclusion,” he said. “Today is not the time to turn back -- but to keep the faith and redouble our support for open societies, and for people’s demands for a job and a voice.”
Speaking after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had addressed the UN, Cameron warned Islamist regimes not to undermine the stability of other countries.
“Iran will continue to face the full force of sanctions and scrutiny from this United Nations until it gives up its ambitions to spread a nuclear shadow over the world,” Cameron said. Iran is Syria’s closest ally.