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Russia says now is not the time for U.N. resolution on aid to Syria

Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in Syria, wait to enter Turkey on the Syrian-Turkish border in Shamm Alqrain village, northern country
Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in Syria, wait to enter Turkey on the Syrian-Turkish border in Shamm Alqrain village, northern country

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As Western and Arab nations prepared to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for better access to aid in war-torn Syria, Russia said on Wednesday that now was not the right time for such a move.

The United Nations says some 9.3 million Syrians, nearly half the population, need help and U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence and red tape have slowed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to a trickle.

"We're against moving to a resolution now on the Security Council. That's as clear as I can put it," Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters. "It's not a good time to have any resolution discussed in the Security Council."

Western members of the 15-member Security Council have been considering a resolution on aid for almost a year. After months of talks, the council eventually made a non-binding statement on October 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.

After a first round of peace talks in Geneva last week failed to reach a deal on aid to some 2,500 Syrians trapped in the besieged Old City of Homs, Western and Arab nations said they planned to press for a legally binding resolution.

Western council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a draft resolution could be circulated among council members as early as this week.

However, Churkin made Russia's position clear on Wednesday, saying, "we believe it's a wrong move."

RUSSIAN VETO

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 with popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad and spiraled into civil war after a crackdown by security forces.

Russia, a close ally of Syria, and China have used their Security Council veto power three times to prevent action against Assad backed by the remaining three veto powers - the United States, Britain and France.

Western council diplomats said a draft resolution would include most aspects of the council's October statement, which urged Syria to allow cross-border aid deliveries and called on the combatants to allow pauses in fighting to help humanitarian aid convoys. The draft would also call for access to besieged areas such as Homs.

"We are determined to move ahead. We expect to circulate the text of a resolution this week," said a senior U.N. diplomat. "We're not aiming for a Russian veto. We're aiming for a resolution that everybody can agree. That is what we want."

But Churkin called for more work before considering a resolution on aid access.

"We believe hard, pragmatic and purposeful work is necessary in order to have a practical result," he said. "We have been working very hard on this with the humanitarian agencies, with Valerie Amos, and I think some results have been achieved.

Amos, who has been calling for stronger action by the Security Council, is expected to brief the council on the situation in Syria next week.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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