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Russia, Britain, France say possible U.N. Syria aid vote this week

Source: Reuters - Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:52 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
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MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS, Feb 19 (Reuters) - A U.N. Security Council resolution to boost humanitarian aid access in war-torn Syria could be approved within days, Russia, Britain and France said on Wednesday, but Moscow warned against any attempts to "politicize" the issue.

Russia initially dismissed a Western- and Arab-backed draft resolution as an unjust bid to blame Damascus for the aid crisis in Syria, where the United Nations say some 9.3 million people, or nearly half of the country's population, need help.

Russia proposed a rival text and Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg have since wrapped some of Moscow's suggestions into their draft, which has become the basis for negotiations. But Western diplomats say there are still several key sticking points with Moscow to be overcome.

These include a threat to consider sanctions against those who block aid delivery, a demand that restrictions be lifted on cross-border humanitarian access and how the draft resolution describes the conflict and the weapons used, diplomats said.

"If nobody in the Security Council seeks to politicize this issue, to promote one-sided approaches, I am convinced we will be able to reach an agreement in the coming days," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a meeting of Gulf states in Kuwait on Wednesday, Interfax news agency reported.

Lavrov also said on Monday that Russia, a permanent Security Council member with veto power, would block the adoption of a resolution that allowed aid convoys to enter Syria without the consent of the country's government.

Russia, supported by China, has shielded Syria on the U.N. Security Council during the country's three-year-long civil war. They have vetoed three resolutions condemning Syria's government and threatening it with possible sanctions.

"I think we will go to a vote by the end of the week. There are only three points to solve so it will be quick to decide," French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters, although he declined to elaborate on those points.

British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters: "I think we will be in a position to vote this week, that's certainly our intention."

Western members of the Security Council have been considering a humanitarian resolution 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 only produced a little administrative progress.

U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos last week urged the U.N. Security Council to act to increase humanitarian access in Syria. Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence and red tape have slowed aid deliveries to a trickle.

The United Nations has said 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 a revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)

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