U.N. to vote on improved Syria aid access

Damascus's ally Russia has no plans to use its veto on the new aid resolution

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The United Nations Security Council is set to adopt a resolution Monday authorizing humanitarian convoys to serve millions of Syrian civilians by traveling from neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, according to Agence France-Presse.

After weeks of negotiations, Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg drafted the text for a vote.

Damascus' ally Russia, which has already used its veto on four Syria-related resolutions since the conflict began in March 2011, has no plans to do so this time.

“We are close to a very good agreement,” Rwandan envoy, Eugene-Richard Gasana, who holds the council's rotating presidency, said.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin had also expressed optimism, saying there were only two items that were still “unacceptable” for Russia.

The shipments will travel through four different border crossings, including two in Turkey (Bab a-Salam and Bab al-Hawa), one in Iraq (Al-Yarubiyah) and another in Jordan (Al-Ramtha).

The United Nations accuses the Syrian regime of imposing bureaucratic and arbitrary obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid, AFP reported.

Because of the restrictions and ongoing insecurity, 10.8 million Syrians need help, of which 4.7 million live in hard-to-reach areas trapped by the fighting or under siege by government troops or rebels.

The proposed resolution would help provide food and medicine to between 1.3 and 1.9 million more civilians, most in zones held by armed rebel groups.

“The United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners are authorized to use routes across conflict lines and the border crossings... in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance, including medical and surgical supplies, reaches people in need throughout Syria through the most direct routes,” the draft resolution said.

The authorization is valid for 180 days and must be renewed by the council.

In reaction to the proposed text, Russia demands that its Syrian ally can be allowed to examine the operations, while Western countries pressed for the aid operations to be as fluid as possible.

The text stipulates that Damascus can face sanctions if it did not comply.

The text namely “affirms that (the council) will take further measures in the event of non-compliance with this resolution (or its predecessor)... by any Syrian party.”