Russia urged the UN Security Council on Friday to quickly adopt a draft resolution endorsing the cease-fire agreement in Syria and reiterating support for a roadmap to peace that starts with a transitional government.
The draft also calls for "rapid, safe and unhindered" access to deliver humanitarian aid throughout the country. And it looks forward to a meeting in late January between the Syrian government and opposition in Kazakhstan's capital Astana "as an important part of the Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations."
Russia and Turkey, who brokered the cease-fire agreement, circulated the text to Security Council members Thursday night.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin formally presented the draft at a closed council meeting Friday morning. In response to comments from council members, Russia circulated a revised text late Friday and Churkin said he hopes for a vote on Saturday morning.
The cease-fire agreement, if it holds, would mark a potential breakthrough in a conflict that began in 2011 with an uprising against decades of rule by President Bashar Assad's family and has left over 250,000 dead and more than 13.5 million people in need of urgent assistance, and triggered a refugee crisis across Europe.
The draft resolution reiterates "that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012," which was endorsed by the Security Council.
The communique, adopted by key nations, calls for the formation of a transitional government with full executive powers "on the basis of mutual consent" and steps leading to elections.
Churkin told reporters "there is no competition" between the talks in Astana and negotiations that the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, hopes to arrange between the government and opposition in Geneva on Feb. 8.
"As you know Staffan de Mistura had trouble reconvening the talks, so Russia and Turkey obviously decided to give the United Nations a hand in pushing things forward, and this is what we see happening," Churkin told reporters.
He said de Mistura has been in contact with the Russian government and "indicated his eagerness to help organize the Astana meetings. ... So we expect the United Nations to be fully involved in the preparations of the meetings."
If the Astana meetings are successful, Churkin said, "they could move on to Geneva as far as I am concerned, so we don't see any competition there or overlapping of the two processes."
Churkin said Russia and Turkey have made clear they want other countries to participate in the Astana meetings.
He said Iran will definitely participate "actively" in preparing the Astana meeting and in Russia's view Egypt can also join the preparatory process right now.
Churkin said there are other very important players who are welcome including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — and "we do expect the Trump administration after it comes into the White House on Jan. 20 will be an important participant." (bbn)
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