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Russia says Syria agrees to aid access from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan

Source: Reuters - Tue, 17 Jun 2014 23:32 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it has gained Syrian approval to open four border crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey to deliver aid to millions of people under a "far-reaching formula" proposed to U.N. Security Council members.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to elaborate on the formula, but diplomats familiar with the plan said it involved using international monitors to inspect humanitarian aid convoys entering Syria.

Veto-wielding council members - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - have been negotiating a humanitarian resolution drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan to boost aid deliveries in Syria, including across rebel-held borders. Russia presented its formula to those seven states on Tuesday.

Churkin said Syria had accepted Moscow's plan to open the four border crossings named in the draft text.

"It's a pretty innovative approach to doing things. So we hope it's going to work and we hope it's going to help the humanitarian agencies to work on the ground in Syria, including in areas which are not controlled by the government," he said.

"It is a far reaching formula which will allow to open those four crossing points in which the humanitarian agencies were interested," Churkin told reporters, adding he hoped the draft resolution could be adopted within days.

But Western diplomats said they need time to study Russia's proposal and consult with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on whether it could work on the ground. A draft resolution would also still need to be circulated to the remaining seven council members before a vote.

The Security Council achieved rare unity in unanimously approving a resolution in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria, where a three-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people.

But that resolution has failed to make a difference, U.N. officials said. The United Nations says some 9.3 million people in Syria - half the country's population - need help, while another 2.5 million people have fled the conflict.

Western council members decided to pursue a stronger resolution under Chapter 7, which would be legally binding and enforceable with military action or sanctions, diplomats said. The February resolution was binding but not enforceable.

Russia has said it is opposed to the delivery of aid in Syria without the consent of Damascus and is against a Chapter 7 resolution. Russia, supported by China, previously vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Churkin described Russia's cross-border aid proposal as an "elegant solution."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Geneva earlier on Tuesday that he had been urging the Security Council to facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access to some 3.5 million hard-to-reach people in Syria.

"I sincerely hope the United Nations Security Council will take as soon as possible early action on the proposed resolution on this matter," Ban said. (Editing by Andre Grenon)

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