| UNITED NATIONS
UNITED NATIONS The United Nations Security Council will vote on Saturday on rival draft resolutions on Syria - a French text requiring an end to air strikes and military flights over Aleppo city and a Russian text that is similar but does not include that demand.
The French draft resolution appears doomed to be vetoed by Russia. Moscow's text is effectively the French draft with Russian amendments that put the focus back on a failed Sept. 9 U.S./Russia ceasefire deal, which is annexed to the draft.
“This is a cynical attempt to divert attention away from the bombing of Aleppo,” British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said of the Russian draft.
The 15-member council has been negotiating for a week on a French text. A Saturday vote on that was called after French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Moscow on Thursday and Washington on Friday to discuss the resolution.
Moscow then proposed its own draft and said it would be put to a vote immediately after the vote on the French draft, which is likely to be blocked by Russia because it "demands that all parties immediately end all aerial bombardments of and military flights over Aleppo city."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian war planes and Iranian support, have been battling to capture eastern Aleppo, the rebel-held half of Syria's largest city, where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped.
"This is not a draft which is right for adoption, I have this suspicion that the real motive is to cause a Russian veto," said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Friday of the French text. "I cannot possibly see how we can let this resolution pass."
Security Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the Russian draft contained a lot of reasonable language, the lack of any references to ending air strikes on Aleppo was likely to be a problem.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes to be adopted. The council veto powers are the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.
The United States on Monday suspended talks with Russia on implementing a ceasefire deal in Syria, accusing Moscow of not living up to its commitments to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.
That failed ceasefire deal is annexed to the Russian draft U.N. resolution, which urges Moscow and Washington to ensure the implementation of the agreement. It stresses an "urgent need to achieve and verify separating moderate opposition forces from 'Jabhat Al-Nusra' as a key priority."
Both the French and Russian drafts, seen by Reuters, urge an immediate cessation of hostilities and safe and unhindered humanitarian aid access in Syria.
The French draft asks U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to propose options for a U.N.-supervised monitoring of a truce and threatens to "take further measures" in the event of non-compliance by "any party to the Syrian domestic conflict."
Ayrault said that he planned to go to New York for the vote and told reporters in Washington: "I still have hope that the resolution will pass and that it can be implemented."
Russia and China have previously protected the Syrian government from council action by blocking several resolutions, including a bid to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
"It is unprecedented for the members of the council to ask a permanent member to limit its own activities," Churkin said of the French draft resolution.
"I'm supposed to vote for a demand that then our military will have to comply with. It doesn't mean that certain things cannot happen but they can't happen through a certain process, which is definitely not putting a resolution with this kind of text on the table," he said.
A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 sparked a civil war and Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)