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Russia pushes UN Council resolution endorsing Syria peace plan

AFP , Saturday 31 Dec 2016
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Russia on Friday submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council supporting the ceasefire it helped broker in Syria as well as planned peace talks in Kazakhstan.

Moscow drew up the text endorsing the plan it spearheaded with the help of Turkey and Iran for a nationwide ceasefire, which went into effect at midnight and appeared to be mainly holding despite reports of sporadic clashes near Damascus.

The deal calls for subsequent negotiations in late January in the Kazakh capital Astana, Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

The council held closed-door consultations on the text Friday morning.

Some countries have made recommendations that can be "easily absorbed" into the draft resolution, he added, saying that the peace plan "is not just a Russia-Turkey effort."

"We hope that tomorrow morning, we can go for a vote and adopt it unanimously," Churkin said.

The ceasefire deal calls for negotiations over a political solution to end the conflict that has killed more than 310,000 people since 2011 and forced millions to flee.

The ceasefire -- which involves 13 groups representing 60,000 fighters who control "large chunks" of Syria -- appeared to be "holding adequately," the Russian envoy said.

The deal excludes jihadist groups including the Islamic State and Fateh al-Sham Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front.

Russia's plan, which pointedly excludes the United States, does not overlap with an initiative for negotiations in February mediated by UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, Churkin said.

Nevertheless, Moscow expects the UN will be "fully involved" in preparing for the Astana talks, he added.

"We hope others will join in, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar," Churkin said.

One Western diplomat said it would take time to examine Moscow's draft resolution.

"It needs to be studied seriously," the diplomat said.

There were still "a lot of unanswered questions," said another Western diplomat, adding that Russia might be hard-pressed to muster the nine votes needed for its resolution to pass.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was seen by AFP, "endorses the documents mediated and issued by Russia and Turkey on December 29."

It "stresses the importance of their full and immediate implementation and calls upon all parties to be guided by the aforementioned documents and provide support to their implementation."

The text does not mention the planned UN-led talks in Geneva in February.

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