UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. Security Council will likely vote on a draft resolution to boost humanitarian aid access in war-torn Syria Friday, diplomats said, but it was unclear if Russia and China would support or veto the Western- and Arab-backed text.
Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg finalized the draft Wednesday, which includes demands for cross-border aid access, an end to shelling and aerial bombardment – including barrel bombs – and threatens “further steps” in the event of noncompliance.
These were among the main sticking points during almost two weeks of negotiations. Western diplomats said it was unclear if Moscow and Beijing – two of the five veto-wielding powers on the 15-member council – would support or block the resolution.
Russia, supported by China, has shielded Syria on the U.N. Security Council during the three-year-long civil war. They have vetoed three resolutions condemning Syria’s government and threatening it with possible sanctions.
“Of course the decision will be taken in Moscow,” said a U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It does remain uncertain but, objectively, nothing in this humanitarian text should be unacceptable for any delegation.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday Russia would block the adoption of a resolution that allowed aid convoys to enter Syria without the consent of the Damascus government. He also warned earlier Wednesday that the draft resolution should not be “politicized.”
“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,” The Russian premier told a Gulf states meeting in Kuwait, Interfax news agency reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was actively participating in the process of producing a resolution.
“We believe that, in the current circumstances, the action by the Security Council should be conducive to pushing for a political solution to the Syria problem,” she told reporters in Beijing.
“The relevant action should also respect the U.N.’s guiding principles on humanitarian aid, upholding fairness and neutrality.”
Russia initially dismissed the draft resolution as an unjust bid to blame Damascus for the conflict and the aid crisis in Syria, where the United Nations say 9.3 million people need help.
But Moscow then proposed a rival text and Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg wrapped some of those suggestions into their draft. While Russia then engaged in negotiations, Western diplomats said progress on the text had stalled.
“We’re not making progress by just meeting and meeting and meeting, so we’re going to push it to a vote,” said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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 nonbinding statement on Oct. 2 urging more access to aid, but that statement only produced a little administrative progress.
Meanwhile, UNRWA resumed food distribution inside Yarmouk, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday.
Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. agency that administers Palestinian refugee camps around the Middle East, said in a statement that the Syrian government granted access for relief workers to enter Yarmouk Wednesday after an 11-day halt. He said 280 families received food parcels Wednesday and that another 18,000 Yarmouk residents were slated to receive assistance.
More than 100 people have died in Yarmouk since mid-2013 as a result of starvation and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or lack of medical aid, according to U.N. figures.
Before the conflict, Yarmouk was the largest of nine Palestinian camps in Syria.
Most of the camp’s 150,000 inhabitants fled, according to UNRWA, when armed opposition fighters entered the district in late 2012. Syrian troops surrounded the area and carried out several airstrikes.
When the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011 most Palestinians in Syria stayed on the sidelines, but as the civil war reached Yarmouk in December 2012, many backed the rebels and some took up arms to fight alongside the opposition fighters, including the hard-line Islamic groups such as the Nusra Front.
Some Palestinian groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command have been fighting alongside Assad’s troops in Yarmouk.
Separately, the U.N. refugee agency said that it plans to send 43 shipping containers full of relief supplies to Syria from Dubai. The shipment will travel through the Suez Canal before landing in Tartous to be distributed, UNHCR Senior Logistics officer Soliman Daud said.