Russia-Turkey push for UN approval of Syria ceasefire plan

Russia-Turkey push for UN approval of Syria ceasefire plan
Russia is pushing the UN Security Council to endorse a Syria ceasefire it brokered with rebel-supporter Turkey, and support planned peace talks due to be held in Kazakhstan.
2 min read
31 December, 2016
The nationwide ceasefire in Syria is largely holding on its second day [AFP]

The UN Security Council will vote on Saturday on a resolution that would endorse the Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire in Syria.

The resolution also calls for "rapid, safe and unhindered" access for humanitarian aid across the country.

The vote comes as most of the country remained calm on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, despite heavy clashes and bombing of rebel-held Wadi Barada near Damascus.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin voiced optimism about the council approving the draft resolution, which also endorses the planned January talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, "and adopt it unanimously".

Diplomats, however, told AFP the resolution needed to be "seriously studied", and suggested Russia might be hard-pressed to quickly muster the nine votes needed for it to pass.

Key regime ally Moscow also wants the UN to be involved in the Astana talks between Damascus and rebels, saying it would complement, rather than sideline the UN's own peace efforts.

Russia also wants to involve regional players like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan and the incoming Trump adrministration.

Washington has been conspicuously left out of the ceasefire agreement so far. Analysts say it reflects the deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington, and a failure of US efforts to halt the fighting in Aleppo. It also could show how seriously Turkey has moved away from the US, and towards Russia.

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 previously blocked action to end the war, now in its sixth year.

The ceasefire agreement, if it holds, would mark a potential breakthrough in a conflict that began in 2011 with a peaceful uprising against decades of rule by President Bashar Assad's family and has left more than 400,000 dead and triggered a refugee crisis across Europe.

The council is scheduled to meet at 4pm UK time.