Russia's Lavrov says crimes against Mideast Christians 'genocide'

AFP , Monday 2 Mar 2015

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday crimes committed against Christians in the Middle East were tantamount to "genocide", joining other high-ranking diplomats in calling for action.

Like other minorities, Christians have been the target of brutal violence waged by jihadists in countries such as Libya or Syria.

"There are awful crimes, Christians are killed, they are burnt alive, 21 Egyptian Copts have been beheaded in Libya, all these are signs of genocide following the definition of the UN," Lavrov said on the sidelines of the main annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He added that Christians were also persecuted in Ukraine, where "three priests have been killed, many fled to Russia."

Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese foreign minister, also painted a dark picture of the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

"Twenty years ago, in Iraq, there were one million Christians, in 2014, there were 400,000 and today, 200,000," he said.

"Cases of violence have strongly increased, as have reported cases of collective rapes as punishment.

"There are a lot of trafficking cases of children and women," he added, asking whether Christians would one day feel obliged to leave the Middle East altogether.

"It is time to take action," he said.

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