(Adds Russian comment In paragraphs 3-5, 10-11)
By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS Feb 10 Russia and China on
Monday rebuffed the United States, France and Britain and other
states by failing to attend negotiations on a draft U.N.
Security Council resolution to boost aid access in Syria,
Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan on Thursday presented their
draft to the five veto-wielding council powers and were due to
meet with them on Monday, but Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly
Churkin, and Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi did not attend.
Churkin later said that a meeting had not been necessary
because the text was "beyond redemption." He said that Russia
would veto the Western- and Arab-backed draft resolution if it
was put to a vote: "This text is not going to be adopted, let me
He suggested the move was designed to "whip up political
tensions around Syria and this is not what we need now,
especially in the context of the Geneva 2 negotiations and also
for the purpose for the practical needs of the humanitarians."
A second round of Syria peace talks - known as the Geneva 2
talks - got off to a shaky start on Monday, with the two sides
complaining about violations of a local ceasefire and an
Islamist offensive respectively in separate meetings with the
Diplomats said the draft resolution on aid access was likely
to be circulated among the remaining states on the 15-member
U.N. Security Council early on Tuesday and then negotiations
held by the body on Tuesday afternoon.
"We're still hoping (Russia and China) will engage," one
Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Russia, with the support of Beijing, has shielded Syria on
the U.N. Security Council during the country's three-year-long
civil war. The pair have vetoed three resolutions condemning
Syria's government and threatening it with possible sanctions.
The latest version of the draft aid text, obtained by
Reuters, expresses an intent to impose sanctions on individuals
and entities obstructing aid and if certain demands in the
resolution are not met within 15 days of its adoption.
Churkin told reporters that Russia was discussing what
action the Security Council could take to try to improve the
humanitarian situation in Syria. While he did not rule out a
future need for a resolution, he said Moscow did not believe
such a move was necessary yet.
"Our approach is that we need to work pragmatically," he
said. "If it's something which is useful, which will not be
regarded by people as simply provocative but is something which
is really aimed at improving the humanitarian situation, then I
think it cannot be ruled out."
A senior Chinese diplomat told Reuters he was unaware of a
meeting on the draft resolution.
The United Nations says some 9.3 million Syrians - nearly
half the country's population - need help and U.N. aid chief
Valerie Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence
and red tape are slowing the delivery of humanitarian assistance
to a trickle.
Amos will brief the Security Council on Thursday on the
difficulties of getting access to Syria's neediest people.
Diplomats said the draft was unlikely to go to a vote before
Western members of the Security Council have been
considering a resolution on aid for almost a year. After months
of talks, the council eventually adopted a non-binding statement
on Oct. 2 urging more access to aid.
But that statement produced only a little administrative
progress, such as visas for aid workers and clearance for
convoys. No action has been taken on big issues such as the
demilitarization of schools and hospitals and access to besieged
and hard-to-reach communities.
The United Nations says that well over 100,000 people have
been killed in the Syrian civil war. The opposition Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 136,000
have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar
al-Assad began in March 2011.
(Editing by G Crosse and Mohammad Zargham)