WASHINGTON, January 26 (RIA Novosti) – The United States plans to continue cooperating with Russia in spheres of mutual interest but will also keep voicing its concerns on a number of issues, the US State Department said on Friday.
“We will continue to work with Russia on as many areas as we can where we see interest in cooperation, whether they are bilateral issues, whether they are regional issues, or whether they are global issues,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“But we will also speak straight when we have disagreements, as we have, whether it was on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, whether it was on human rights, whether it was on Syria,” she said.
The United States announced Friday that it is withdrawing from a bilateral working group on civil society issues with Russia, a move that comes amid deteriorating ties between the two countries over human rights. Nuland told a news briefing Friday that the move was prompted by what Washington sees as a crackdown by the Russian government on civil society groups, which have been subject to increasingly onerous registration requirements over the past year and are now banned from accepting financing from the United States if they engage in politics.
Last year, Washington angered the Russian government by implementing the Magnitsky Act, a law introducing sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses that was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009. Russia responded by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children and prohibiting politically active Russian NGOs from accepting financing from the United States.
Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic ties after their August 2008 war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after the two republics broke away. Moscow keeps ruling out any negotiations on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states.
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 calls 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. At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since March 2011, according to latest UN data.