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Russia’s U.N. draft on Syria aid omits sanctions

Russian FM Lavrov says Moscow has prepared a draft for the Security Council that includes aid and denunciation of ‘terror’ in Syria

Published: Updated:

Russia described its own draft U.N. Security Council resolution on bringing aid to desperate Syrian civilians as not inclusive of the threat of sanctions on the Damascus regime, its foreign minister said Thursday.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had prepared two documents for U.N. Security Council discussion comprised of a draft on aid as well as a denunciation of “terror” sweeping the war-torn country, Agence France-Presse reported.

Lavrov said the original draft on humanitarian assistance backed by Western and Arab states “is prepared in the form of an ultimatum. There are threats of sanctions.”

“But we insist on the need to focus on practical work,” Lavrov told reporters.

“The difference between their resolution and our understanding of the situation is that they take a very selective interpretation of the situation,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

“They heap all the blame on the regime, without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems that are being created by the actions of the rebels.”

On Wednesday, Russia proposed on Wednesday a rival U.N. resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Syria to key Security Council members after saying Moscow would veto a Western and Arab-backed measure threatening sanctions against Syria.

Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin gave the text to the four other veto-wielding permanent members of the council - the United States, Britain, France and China - during a meeting, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity, the Associated Press reported.

The draft presented by Russia includes some parts of the Western and Arab text, Churkin said.

Negotiations were expected to see if the drafts can be merged into a compromise text, the diplomat added.

Western diplomats said their goal was to get agreement from all 15 council members on a resolution demanding immediate and unrestricted access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid.

In the Western and Arab text, most of the blame for the humanitarian crisis is put on the Syrian government.

The text demands that the Syrian authorities allow humanitarian access to people in need across conflict lines and across borders from neighboring countries, particularly Turkey and Iraq.

It also demands that civilians be allowed to leave the war-torn country.

If the resolution's demands are not met within two weeks, the draft expresses the Security Council's intention to impose non-military sanctions.

Russia and China, which back President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have blocked three previous Western-backed resolutions that would have pressured Assad to end the now three-year-old civil war.

The Security Council was also divided in October as it did not come together to approve a presidential statement appealing for immediate access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid. But the supporters want a legally binding resolution.

Russia has come under intense pressure over its opposition, including from U.S. President Barack Obama.

‘Very direct‘

On Tuesday, Obama said that Secretary of State John Kerry and others have "delivered a very direct message" pressuring the Russians to drop their opposition.

"It is not just the Syrians that are responsible" for the plight of civilians but "the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution," he said.

Meanwhile, violence in Syria intensified and the situation on the ground became more complicated "people are becoming more desperate," Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief said according to the Associated Press.

"There are reports and allegations of systematic targeting of communities with specific religious affiliations," she said.

The desperately needed humanitarian pause in a besieged rebel-held area of Homs, Syria's third-largest city, has led to the evacuation of more than 1,000 civilians and the delivery of some food and medicine, she added.


(With the Associated Press)