UN Security Council postpones vote on Syria ceasefire as negotiations continue | News | DW | 23.02.2018
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UN Security Council postpones vote on Syria ceasefire as negotiations continue

The UN Security Council has delayed a vote on a possible 30-day truce in Syria to Saturday. Russia, the Syrian government's main backer, has said it is prepared to support such a deal given the right conditions.

The United Nations Security Council vote calling for a 30-day ceasefire deal in Syria was initially pushed back twice on Friday before ultimately being postponed until Saturday at noon local time in New York (1700 UTC).

Diplomats said they had agreed to delay the vote to allow more time for negotiations after failing to find a consensus after six hours of talks on Friday.

The proposed ceasefire includes a temporary cessation of hostilities to allow much-needed food and medical aid to be delivered, as well as clearing civilians from conflict zones.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta?

Alun McDonald, a spokesman for Save the Children, told DW it was imperative that the ceasefire be fully implemented.

"If we can’t get food and medicine in immediately then many more children will die as a result," McDonald said. "This is a matter of life or death and ever hour counts at the moment. The more days this goes on, the more children die."

The vote came amid the Syrian government's heavy air campaign on the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, just outside of the capital, Damascus. In just the last six days, the Syrian regime's onslaught has seen more than 460 civilians, including 100 children, killed in the airstrikes.

"I'm extremely frustrated," said Sweden's UN Ambassador Olof Skoog. "We were unable to strike a deal that would have improved the suffering that the Syrian people are facing." Sweden and Kuwait pushed for the vote after the ceasefire resolution languished in the Security Council.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, slammed Russia for the delay.

"Unbelievable that Russia is stalling a vote on a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access in Syria," she tweeted. "How many more people will die before the Security Council agrees to take up this vote? Let's do this tonight. The Syrian people can't wait."

Lavrov: Russia to vote for Syria truce, but...

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia was in favor of a ceasefire in Syria but wanted certain conditions met before voting for the resolution. As a Security Council member with veto power, Russia could have prevented the resolution from passing.

Interfax news agency reported that Lavrov had accused the United States and its allies of refusing to change the agreement to include promises from Syrian rebels to abide by the deal.

Another key Russian proposal that was rejected would have ruled out an immediate ceasefire, demanding instead that all parties "stop hostilities as soon as possible" and work towards a "humanitarian pause" for at least 30 days.

Russia had already suggested changes to a previous draft ceasefire on Thursday, which initially forcing the Security Council to delay a vote until Friday.

That initial delay prompted French Ambassador Francois Delattre to warn that failure to act over eastern Ghouta would lead to a devastating loss in credibility for the Security Council and could mean "the death knell of the United Nations."

Stopping carnage in eastern Ghouta

The Syrian government stepped up its shelling of eastern Ghouta, a longtime rebel stronghold, last week, and the world has been shocked by the harrowing images coming out of the area, many of them showing dead or wounded children.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has accused the rebels of using civilians as human shields. However, Dr. Hamza Alkateab, a Syrian physician who worked in Aleppo while that city was under heavy shelling, said Assad's claim is a dubious one.

"It doesn't make any sense at all. The regime propaganda, cheap propaganda always used those claims," Alkateab told DW, claiming that both Syrian and Russian media were complicit in spreading such stories.

"The regime is surrounding [eastern Ghouta] and preventing anything and anyone from coming in or out."

The doctor also accused Assad and his Russian allies of bombarding hospitals: "More than 21 health facilities have been targeted in Ghouta…[Doctors] know for sure that they are left alone facing this killing machine. So they have to think each time each injury of how much medication they can use. They are thinking all the time that they might run out of painkillers or antibiotics or other things."

dm,amp,es/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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