Foreign Minister Soini: US departure from UN Human Rights Council 'a setback'

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"While we agree with the USA on the need for reform, our support for this Human Rights Council remains steadfast, and we will continue to advance the cause of reform from within its ranks", Britain's ambassador Julian Braithwaite said.

Washington has always been pursuing double standards and its withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council once again confirms this, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday.

"China will continue, working with all sides, to make its contribution to the healthy development of human rights around the world via constructive dialogue and cooperation", he added.

A general view of the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 26, 2018 in Geneva.

In a letter to at least 17 rights and aid groups, seen by Reuters, Haley berated them for urging countries not to support a US -drafted General Assembly resolution titled "Improving the Effectiveness of the Human Rights Council". Its decision "risks undermining the role of the U.S.as a strong advocate and supporter of democracy on the world stage", she added.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric responded to questions on Wednesday about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' response to the US withdrawal from the Geneva-based council. Instead of focusing on real human-rights issues, the council has used its time and resources to bully Israel and question Israel's legitimacy as a sovereign state.

Haley said that if the council reforms, the United States "would be happy to rejoin". The United States is traditionally one of its largest donors.

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In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized what she described as Washington's "boorish cynicism in stubbornly refusing to recognize its own human rights problems while trying to tailor the council to its political interests".

The US has been part of the council in its current form since 2009. However, Haley notes how "this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments".

"It is bad news, it is bad news for this council, it is bad news I think for the United Nations". It added that the US criticism of the council for failing to make changes advocated by Washington appears "cynical".

The Russian mission described the council as a "key global platform for cooperation in protecting human rights".

The Human Rights Council is a 47-country body that draws its mandate from the U.N. General Assembly, and meets three times a year in Geneva.

When the Council was created in 2006, US President George W. Bush's administration shunned the body. The body has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories that Washington wanted removed.

Under President Barack Obama the United States was elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms on the council by the UN General Assembly.

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