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Russia says not the time for Syria humanitarian resolution

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media after a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on Syria December 16, 2013 at UN headquarters in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

UNITED NATIONS: Russia's UN envoy said Wednesday that Moscow opposes a UN Security Council Resolution demanding greater humanitarian access in Syria to those in urgent need of food and medical supplies.

Since negotiations between Syria and world powers halted Friday without concrete results, Western nations and some Arab countries backing the Syrian opposition have drafted a text they hope to bring before the council this week, diplomats said.

"It is too early," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. "We believe it is not a good time to have any resolution discussed in the Security Council... My concern is if there is a resolution, it will be an effort to politicize."

He called for a "pragmatic approach" toward Damascus, Moscow's ally.

But Churkin declined to say whether Russia would apply its veto power to a possible humanitarian resolution on Syria, as it has done three times since the conflict broke out in March 2011.

France, Britain, the United States and other Council members such as Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg have held meetings without Russia to discuss the text, which has yet to be completed.

Three million Syrian civilians have been trapped by the violence tearing through the country, including more than 2,500 in the besieged city of Homs alone, according to the United Nations.

Without minimizing the "quite horrific" situation in Homs, Churkin claimed that "it is not a large-scale kind of a siege of the kind we've had in the course of history."

Asked about much-delayed efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, Churkin praised Damascus for its efforts.

"Things are moving along, the joint (United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) operation is functioning well," he said.

"We are confident this project is going to be accomplished in a timely manner and these chemicals are going to be destroyed."

The US says only two small shipments of chemicals worth about four percent of Syria's declared arsenal have left the Syrian port of Latakia so far -- far less than the 700 tonnes the country was supposed to dispose of by the end of 2013.

The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.

Under the agreement, Syria's entire chemical arsenal is due to be eliminated by June 30.

Western powers accuse President Bashar al-Assad's regime of purposefully delaying the operations, while Syria stresses the challenges it faces in meeting its commitments during a time of war.

Churkin renewed Russia's call for Iran to be involved "constructively" in peace talks between the regime and the opposition, due to resume February 10.

"It was a mistake not to invite Iran" to the last round, the Russian envoy added.

 

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Summary

Russia's UN envoy said Wednesday that Moscow opposes a UN Security Council Resolution demanding greater humanitarian access in Syria to those in urgent need of food and medical supplies.

Churkin declined to say whether Russia would apply its veto power to a possible humanitarian resolution on Syria, as it has done three times since the conflict broke out in March 2011 .

The US says only two small shipments of chemicals worth about four percent of Syria's declared arsenal have left the Syrian port of Latakia so far -- far less than the 700 tonnes the country was supposed to dispose of by the end of 2013 .

The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.


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