Russia, China snub UN talks on draft Syria aid access resolution

by Reuters
Monday, 10 February 2014 18:11 GMT

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Russia and China on Monday rebuffed the United States, France and Britain and other states by failing to attend negotiations on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to boost aid access in Syria, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan on Thursday presented their draft to the five veto-wielding council powers and were due to meet with them all on Monday, but Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi did not attend.

Churkin had quickly dismissed the draft resolution on Friday, telling Reuters that it was "a non-starter, it's very disappointing, even worse than some texts we saw a couple of months ago."

Diplomats said the draft resolution was likely to be circulated among the remaining states on the 15-member Security Council early on Tuesday and then negotiations held by the body on Tuesday afternoon.

"We're still hoping (Russia and China) will engage," said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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 have vetoed three resolutions condemning Syria's government and threatening it with possible sanctions.

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

The United Nations says some 9.3 million Syrians - nearly half the country's population - need help and U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence and red tape are slowing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to a trickle.

Amos will brief the Security Council on Thursday on the problems she faces getting access to Syria's neediest people. Diplomats said the draft was unlikely to go to a vote before then.

Western members of the Security Council have been considering a resolution on aid for almost a year. After months of talks, the council eventually adopted a non-binding statement on Oct. 2 urging more access to aid.

But that statement produced only a little administrative progress, such as visas for aid workers and clearance for convoys. No action has been taken on big issues such as the demilitarization of schools and hospitals as well as access to besieged and hard-to-reach communities.

The United Nations says that well over 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 136,000 have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)

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