Representatives of five of the world’s developing economic powers voiced their opposition Wednesday to Western sanctions on Iran and the US and Israel’s threat to use use force against Tehran’s nuclear program.
The group of five countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known collectively as BRICS, called to resolve the West’s “disagreements” with Tehran by “political and diplomatic means.”
“We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions,” read an official statement issued by the leaders of countries who attended the fifth BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa.
The statement came days after US President Barack Obama’s reaffirmation that his country will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Despite US lobbying, the BRICS countries have in the past voiced uneasiness over levying economic sanctions against Tehran. The West is using sanctions to dissuade Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program, widely believed to be aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Western officials, eager to avoid an Israeli military strike, have touted the sanctions as having an effect on the Iranian regime’s actions. Officials in Jerusalem, however, say that while they are working they may not be enough.
Tehran claims that it intends to use its nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes.
The BRICS forum leaders also expressed “deep concern” over the raging humanitarian crisis in Syria.
On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a letter desperately calling for help from the leaders of the five nations.
Assad’s appeal to the group came a day after the Arab League endorsed Syria’s Western-backed opposition coalition, allowing it to take the country’s seat at a League summit in Doha, Qatar. The move drew strong condemnation from Damascus, which warned it will take “appropriate measures” to defend its sovereignty.
BRICS countries, including Assad’s key ally Russia, oppose foreign intervention in Syria and accuse the West of trying to force regime change. Russia, China and South Africa have also voted against UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.
At the gathering in Durban, South African President Jacob Zuma and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, were asked Tuesday whether they would use their influence to persuade Assad to allow unimpeded UN humanitarian access across all of Syria’s borders.
Zuma did not answer, while Putin said only, “We will think about it.” Earlier, the Russian president said the forum’s leaders would jointly “work for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.