Russia pressed to speed Syria resolution talks

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Western nations on Wednesday pressed Russia to speed up talks on a proposed UN Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis amid suspicions that it is deliberately holding up the process.

New reports of the killing of at least 200 people in two days in Syria added to demands for action by the Security Council which has yet to pass a resolution on the crisis.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, and China vetoed a European resolution on Syria in October but Russia surprised the council last week by proposing its own resolution which would condemn violence by the government and opposition.

European and US diplomats have said the resolution is "unbalanced" and only one session of expert talks has been held in six days since it was presented. Some western missions have raised suspicions that Russia could be working with Syria.

"The situation is dramatic and the council has no time to lose," said Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig. "We urge the Russian delegation to expedite the negotiations of their draft and to conduct serious and swift negotiations."

In Paris, French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero also called on Russia "to accelerate the rhythm of negotiations at the Security Council on its draft resolution."

"Our longstanding position is that the UN SecurityCouncil has a duty to speak out for peace, security, and basic human rights in Syria," commented US ambassador Susan Rice on the council's deadlock.

Germany raised Syria during Security Council consultations on Wednesday and a German diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "In light of the dramatic escalation on the ground there shouldn't be any Russian-Syrian foot-dragging."

The diplomat added that calling only one meeting and Russia's failure to come up with an updated draft incorporating proposed amendments "gives rise to doubts about how serious the Russian efforts really are," the diplomat added.

Another Western diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was "evidence" that Russia was working with Syria on its resolution campaign.

In response to the pressure, Russia called a new meeting of experts from the 15-nation council on Thursday.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon meanwhile called on Syria to give "full cooperation" to a proposed Arab League observer mission to monitor the impact of the government's deadly crackdown on protests.

"The secretary general remains extremely concerned about the escalating crisis and the mounting death toll in Syria. As we have said repeatedly, the violence and killings must stop," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

Nesirky said the UN was encouraged by Syria's signature of an accord to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor claims against Assad's forces.

"Now it is critical for the government of Syria to extend its full cooperation to that mission," the spokesman added.

The UN said last week that more than 5,000 people had been killed in Assad's bloody crackdown on opposition protests, but latest reports of mass killing have pushed up the toll dramatically.

An advance Arab League team is due to go to Damascus on Thursday to prepare the arrival of about 500 observers that Syria has agreed to let in.

© 2011 AFP

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