Russia decries U.N. draft on Syria aid as ‘unacceptable’

U.N. diplomats have tried to persuade Russia to back a new resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that a draft of a new United Nations humanitarian resolution on Syria was unacceptable because it was “absolutely one-sided.”

“The ideas that were shared with us by those initiating this process... are absolutely unacceptable and contain an ultimatum for the government, that if they don't solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions,” Lavrov said in Moscow, in statements carried by Agence France-Presse.

“Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution,” he said.

A second round of Syria peace talks - known as the Geneva II talks - got off to a shaky start on Monday, with the two sides complaining about violations of a local ceasefire and an Islamist offensive in the war torn country.

U.N. diplomats have tried to persuade Russia to back a new resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, which “demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs.”

But Lavrov said focusing on one city and the government's role was “absolutely one-sided and detached from the facts.”

“It’s as if there are no witness accounts, even from the humanitarian agencies, that the militant groups are the main impediments to the humanitarian operation in Homs and in delivering humanitarian aid to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp,” he said.

He added that other Syrian cities like Zahra and al-Hasakah also need to be unblocked, and that the U.N. needed to focus more on the spread of terrorism in the war-torn country.

“It’s time for the Security Council to pay attention to an equally frightening aspect of the Syrian crisis, and that is the growth of terrorism due to the conflict.”

A diplomat said the draft resolution was likely to be circulated among the remaining states on the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

But Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, and Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi did not attend.

“We’re still hoping [Russia and China] will engage,” one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Russia, with the support of Beijing, has shielded Syria on the U.N. Security Council during the country’s three-year-long civil war. The pair vetoed three resolutions condemning Syria’s government and threatening it with possible sanctions.

The latest version of the draft aid text, obtained by Reuters, expresses intent to impose sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing aid and if certain demands in the resolution are not met within 15 days of its adoption.

(With Reuters and AFP)