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China, Russia block UN statement on Arakan

Bangladeshi activists of an Islamic group protest against the deaths of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 1 December 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

China, backed by Russia, blocked a short UN Security Council statement on Burma on Friday, diplomats said, after the 15-member body met to discuss the situation in Arakan State, where the country’s military is conducting a security operation.

The UN human rights office last month accused the military of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burning their villages since October in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman briefed the council behind closed doors. Britain requested the meeting.

“We did put forward … some proposed press elements but there was not consensus in the room,” British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, president of the council for March, told reporters after the briefing.

Such statements have to be agreed by consensus. Diplomats said Burma’s neighbour China, backed by Russia, blocked the statement.

The short draft press statement, seen by Reuters, would have “noted with concern renewed fighting in some parts of the country and stressed the importance of humanitarian access to all affected areas.”

Some 75,000 people have fled Arakan State to Bangladesh since Burma’s military began a security operation last October in response to what it says was an attack by Rohingya insurgents on border posts in which nine police officers were killed.

The European Union called on Thursday for the United Nations to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to Burma, officially known as Myanmar, to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the military against Rohingya Muslims.

Following a closed-door council meeting in November, and as Western nations became increasingly concerned about how Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was dealing with violence in the divided northwest, Suu Kyi told diplomats in the capital, Naypyidaw, that her country was being treated unfairly.