UN Security Council to vote on Syria ceasefire agreement

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will vote on Saturday on a resolution that would endorse the ceasefire agreement in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey, and reiterate support for a roadmap to peace that starts with a transitional government.
The resolution also calls for “rapid, safe and unhindered” access to deliver humanitarian aid throughout the country. And it looks forward to a meeting in late January between the Syrian government and opposition in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana “as an important part of the Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations.” Russia and Turkey are on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict: Moscow along with Iran provides crucial military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has long served as a rear base and source of supplies for the rebels. Divisions in the Security Council between Russia and the veto-wielding Western powers, the US, Britain and France who support the moderate opposition and demand that Assad steps down, have blocked action to end the war, now in its sixth year.
Russia and Turkey sent the cease-fire agreement and the draft resolution to Security Council members Thursday night. After closed discussions in the council today morning, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a revised draft, urged council members to support it, and called for a vote today. The Security Council needs to participate “in this important process,” Churkin said. The council is scheduled to meet at 11 am (local time). Russia’s UN Mission said members would hold closed consultations and then vote.
The cease-fire agreement, if it holds, would mark a potential breakthrough in a conflict that began in 2011 with an uprising against decades of rule by President Bashar Assad’s family and has left over 250,000 dead and more than 13.5 million people in need of urgent assistance, and triggered a refugee crisis across Europe.
The draft resolution reiterates “that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012,” which was endorsed by the Security Council. The communique, adopted by key nations, calls for the formation of a transitional government with full executive powers “on the basis of mutual consent” and steps leading to elections.
Churkin told reporters “there is no competition” between the talks in Astana and negotiations that the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, hopes to arrange between the government and opposition in Geneva on February 8.
“As you know Staffan de Mistura had trouble reconvening the talks, so Russia and Turkey obviously decided to give the United Nations a hand in pushing things forward, and this is what we see happening,” Churkin told reporters.

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