Beirut: World powers at United Nations unite for Syria peace
Beirut: The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Saturday supporting efforts by Russia and Turkey to end the nearly six-year conflict in Syria and jump-start peace negotiations, as a fragile country-wide cease-fire wavered.
The resolution also calls for the “rapid, safe and unhindered” delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Syria. And it anticipates a meeting of the Syrian regime and opposition representative in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana in late January.
The resolution’s final text dropped an endorsement of the Syria cease-fire agreement reached Thursday, simply taking note of it but welcoming and supporting Russian-Turkish efforts to end the violence.
Western members of the council sought the last-minute changes to the draft resolution to clarify the UN’s role and the meaning of the agreement brokered by Moscow and Ankara.
US deputy ambassador Michele Sison said the Obama administration strongly supports a cease-fire and “unfettered humanitarian access,” but she expressed regret that additional documentation to the agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey with details about its implementation have not yet been made public.
Earlier, parts of Syria saw continued fighting, on the second day of a nationwide cease-fire.
Activists reported pro-regime forces were pressing on several fronts against two strategically located opposition pockets around the capital, Damascus, while Russia’s military deployment to Syria reported 12 cease-fire violations it blamed on the opposition Friday.
Nevertheless, the Russian and Turkish brokered truce held for the most part on a day marked by rain and overcast skies, preserving the possibility for peace talks in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana in the second half of January.
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 opposition.
The three powers, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, have agreed to sponsor talks between the government and the opposition in Astana if the truce holds.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least two civilians and five militants have been killed in battles over opposition-held Eastern Ghouta and Barada Valley regions around Damascus, since the truce came into effect Thursday at midnight.
The Barada Valley Media Center said Russian and Syrian regime’s aircraft struck villages in the water-rich region for the 10th consecutive day Saturday. The raids have coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since Dec. 22. The valley is the region’s primary source of water.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported the death of a Daesh commander in a Turkish airstrike near the north Syrian town of Al-Bab on Friday. The truce does not cover operations against the Fatah Al-Sham front.
Anadolu identified the commander as Abu Ansari. The report could not be independently verified.
Meanwhile, opposition groups said on Saturday they would consider a cease-fire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey “null and void” if the regime forces and their allies continued to violate it.
“Continued violations by the regime and bombardment and attempts to attack areas under the control of the revolutionary factions will make the agreement null and void,” a statement signed by a number of opposition groups said.
In their statement, the opposition fighters said it appeared the government and the opposition had signed two different versions of the cease-fire deal, one of which was missing “a number of key and essential points that are non-negotiable,” but did not say what those were.
There has been confusion over which groups in the opposition are included in the cease-fire.