Moscow had already dismissed the Western-Arab draft debated in the
Security Council on Tuesday as a non-starter, but a senior
diplomat's unequivocal condemnation indicated Russia would seek
major changes before dropping its opposition.
"Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military
action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are
not met," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said of the draft,
according to state-run news agency RIA.
"It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being
prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through."
Since the civil war began in Syria in 2011, Russia and China have
vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions condemning
Assad's government and threatening it with sanctions.
Russia says it is not trying to prop up Assad but that he must not
be forced out by foreign powers, and adamantly opposes Western
At the United Nations on Tuesday, French Ambassador Gerard Araud
told reporters that Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the
council Moscow was prepared to work on some kind of resolution on
aid access, but not the present draft.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow
would consider a draft resolution only if it was "not about
one-sided accusations" against Syria's government.
The draft condemns rights abuses by Syrian authorities and armed
groups, and demands that the government stop all aerial bombardment
of cities and towns as well as the indiscriminate use of bombs,
rockets and related weaponry. It also condemns "increased terrorist
attacks," and calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from
It expresses an intent to impose sanctions on individuals and
entities obstructing aid and if certain demands in the resolution
are not met within 15 days of its adoption.
The government and opposition have agreed on a pause in hostilities
to allow the delivery of aid and the evacuation of civilians from
Homs, Syria's third-largest city, though aid workers came under
attack over the weekend.
Russian officials have said the agreement on Homs has demonstrated
that a Security Council resolution is not needed to address the
problem at this point, and could serve as a template for similar
operations elsewhere in Syria.
Western nations say the Homs operation is a drop in the bucket and
want the council to guarantee broad aid access.
On Wednesday, Assad's forces and allied Lebanese militia Hezbollah
stepped up attacks on Syria's strategic border town of Yabroud,
activists said, in apparent preparation for a new offensive to flush
out rebel forces.
[to top of second column]
While supporting opposite sides in the conflict, the United States
and Russia have joined forces to organize peace talks now underway
in Geneva and an agreement obliging Assad to abandon his chemical
But the aid access dispute has revived mutual recriminations between
Washington and Moscow over one another's motives in Syria, where the
conflict has killed more than 130,000 people and driven a third of
the population from their homes.
"The Security Council needs to speak with one voice," U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a statement
on Tuesday. "Every day the council remains silent, we let down the
Syrian people, and we fail to uphold our role as guardians of
international peace and security."
President Barack Obama said U.S. officials "have delivered a very
direct message to the Russians that they cannot say they are
concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people when there are
French envoy Araud said the draft was "balanced" but could be
amended, suggesting Paris was prepared to accommodate some of
Russia's objections in negotiations on the text to avoid a veto.
Gatilov said China agreed with Russia on the draft.
"The Chinese share our approach, and I would like to hope that
certain other Security Council members will objectively evaluate the
situation," RIA quoted him as saying in Geneva.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying spoke
cautiously about the draft at a daily news briefing in Beijing on
Wednesday, saying: "All parties are currently engaged in talks. We
should not prejudge the outcome."
"We believe that at present the international community must work
together to relieve the humanitarian situation and should create
favorable conditions for the conflicting sides to conduct dialogue
and negotiation," she said.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau in
New York and Michael Martina in Beijing; writing by Steve Gutterman;
editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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