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France in fresh diplomatic push to end fighting in Syria's Aleppo

Vasily Maximov, AFP | Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault arrive for a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on October 6, 2016.

The United Nations Security Council will vote on Saturday on a draft resolution that demands an immediate end to air strikes and military flights over Syria's Aleppo city, but the measure appears doomed to be vetoed by Russia.


The 15-member council has been negotiating for a week on the text drafted by France and Spain. The vote was called after French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Moscow on Thursday and Washington on Friday to discuss the resolution.

"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. "I cannot possibly see how we can let this resolution pass."

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes to be adopted.

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."

The draft, seen by Reuters, urges an immediate cessation of hostilities and safe and unhindered humanitarian aid access in Syria. It "demands that all parties immediately end all aerial bombardments of and military flights over Aleppo city."

It also 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."

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.

"It is unprecedented for the members of the council to ask a permanent member to limit its own activities," Churkin said.

"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.

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.

The draft resolution expresses "outrage at the alarming number of civilian casualties caused by the escalating level of violence and intensified campaigns, in recent days, of
indiscriminate aerial bombings in Aleppo."

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.



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