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18 July 2024

UN Security Council resolution on Syria humanitarian aid faces likely vote this week


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Western and Arab nations supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding immediate access everywhere in Syria to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid are calling for a vote this week, even though diplomats say Russia is opposed to key provisions including a pledge of "further steps" for non-compliance.

Supporters late Wednesday said the resolution had been put in its final form, with a vote likely on Friday. It is unclear whether Moscow will veto the resolution or abstain in the vote.

Britain's U.N. Mission tweeted: "Draft UNSC resolution on increasing humanitarian reach in Syria finalized. Urge all Security Council members to support." France's mission tweeted a similar message in French.

Russia and China, which support the Syrian government, have vetoed three previous resolutions backed by Western nations that would have pressured President Bashar Assad to end the three-year conflict. The council did come together in October to approve a weaker presidential statement appealing for immediate access to all areas of the country to deliver aid to millions of civilians.

But U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has said that call hasn't been implemented, and with the humanitarian crisis worsening Western and Arab nations drafted a legally binding resolution that had the potential to be enforced.  It threatened sanctions if the resolution's demands weren't implemented within 15 days.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed the draft as "a non-starter" and circulated a rival draft that didn't mention sanctions or any kind of enforcement.

The final draft, obtained by The Associated Press, incorporates some suggestions from Russia — particularly on combatting terrorism — but it maintains key elements which Western and Arab nations insist are essential to make a difference on the ground.

It asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution every 30 days and expresses the council's intent "to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution."

The final draft calls on all parties "to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas" and demands that all parties allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, "cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave."

The final draft also demands "that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for U.N. humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, across conflict lines and across borders, in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need through the most direct routes."

It also demands a halt to all attacks against civilians and indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including the use of barrel bombs, in populated areas.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said Russia didn't support these key provisions for Western and Arab nations.

The draft resolution also demands an immediate end to all violence and underscores the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquility, local cease-fires and truces to enable the delivery of aid. It strongly condemns and demands an immediate end to the arbitrary detention and torture of civilians, "notably in prisons and detention facilities, as well as the kidnappings, abductions and forced disappearances."

The Syrian government refers to rebels fighting to overthrow Assad as terrorists, linking them with members of al-Qaida-affiliated groups in the country.

The final draft strongly condemns the increased attacks carried out by organizations and individuals associated with al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. It calls on Syrian authorities and opposition groups "to commit to combating and defeating" groups associated with al-Qaida and "demands that all foreign fighters immediately withdraw from Syria."