Russia rejects U.N. draft resolution for Syria aid

Russian foreign minister opposed the draft resolution because it contained an ultimatum for the government of President Bashar al-Assad

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A draft resolution calling for the lifting of sieges in Syria, to allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, was distributed Tuesday to U.N. Security Council members despite Russia's opposition, diplomats said.

Experts from the 15 member countries were expected to open discussion on the draft later in the day.

Western powers have been trying to persuade Russia to get behind the resolution, which calls on all parties to "immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs" and other Syrian cities where thousands of civilians are trapped by fighting.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow Tuesday that the draft was "absolutely unacceptable," because it contained an ultimatum for the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Russia.

"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.

The resolution is not binding and does not provide for automatic sanctions if it is not complied with.

But if its provisions are not put into effect within 15 days, the Council could vote for sanctions targeting individuals who have blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid or committed acts of violence against civilians.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis, Russia has on three occasions blocked Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring Syria.

This time, the western powers are betting that Russia will find it difficult to block a resolution with a humanitarian objective.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, calls for unhindered access to populations in need of aid, the lifting of the sieges, and end to the use of "starvation as a method of combat," and a demand that Syrian authorities stop aerial bombardments of populated areas.

In an effort to placate Moscow, the draft also condemns "the increased terrorist attacks."

It also demands the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syria, including those of the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran's Qods Force.

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