The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday slammed the request by a few dozen countries that the Syria crisis be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“We believe the initiative is untimely and counterproductive for the resolution of the priority task, which is to immediately stop bloodshed in Syria,” the ministry said, adding that the initiative would only “complicate the search for ways to politically and diplomatically settle the Syrian conflict.”
In a letter on Monday, over 50 countries led by Switzerland called on the UN Security Council to refer the Syria conflict to the ICC – a body prosecuting people for genocide and war crimes.
The letter said the Security Council “must ensure accountability for the crimes that seem to have been and continue to be committed in the Syrian Arab Republic and send a clear signal to the Syrian authorities.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Consulate General in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo has suspended operations.
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, 340 kilometers (211 miles) north of the capital Damascus, has been the scene of months of vicious fighting between government forces and rebel groups. Most of Aleppo is controlled by the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group. The city’s residents are suffering shortages of food and electricity.
Aleppo Governor Mohammed Wahid Akkad said at least 80 civilians were killed and many more injured by two blasts in Aleppo University on Tuesday. The death toll was confirmed by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The monitoring body said the cause of the explosions was unclear, but the city has previously been hit by government airstrikes as well as rebel car bombs.
At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since March 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said, citing new analysis released by the United Nations in early January.
Russia has faced heavy international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, its last ally in the Arab world, over what it called the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by Western nations. Moscow denies it is backing President Bashar Assad and says it is concerned that the Syrian president’s forced departure would only worsen the conflict.
Assad may run in the 2014 presidential elections in Syria, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad told the BBC on Monday.
“In a democracy, you don’t tell somebody not to run,” Miqdad said.