Russia blocks draft UN declaration on Qusayr: diplomats

2nd June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russia has blocked a draft United Nations Security Council declaration on the situation in the besieged Syrian town of Qusayr, diplomats said Sunday.

The text, proposed by Britain on Saturday, expressed the council's "grave concern" about the fate of civilians trapped in the strategically important town in central Homs province, where regime forces backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group began an assault two weeks ago.

It called "upon the Syrian government to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access to impartial humanitarian actors, including UN agencies" to reach civilians.

The 15 members of the council also "strongly call upon all sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and for the Syrian government to exercise its responsibility to protect civilians," it said.

But Russia, a key ally of Syria, demanded a "wider political discussion" on the proposal, according to one UN diplomat.

"I think the text is dead," said another diplomat, adding that Moscow indicated the Security Council did not protest when the rebels seized Qusayr, and that therefore there was no reason to do so now.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Russia has systematically vetoed Western resolutions aimed at sanctioning or putting pressure on the Damascus regime.

Syria's foreign minister said Sunday that the Red Cross will only be allowed to enter Qusayr to aid trapped civilians after the regime ends its assault on the town.

On Saturday, the UN pleaded for a ceasefire around Qusayr saying that up to 1,500 wounded are in desperate need of help.

The town is a key strategic post for both the regime and rebels because it lies along the route between the capital Damascus and the sea and near the Lebanese border, serving as a conduit for rebel weapons and fighters.

© 2013 AFP

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