UN to press Russia on Syria humanitarian resolution

UN diplomats resumed the task of trying to persuade Russia to back a new humanitarian resolution on Syria on Monday, after earlier efforts met with a firm refusal.

A draft text of the non-binding resolution, seen by AFP, was drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg and it "demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs," as well as in Aleppo, Damascus and other cities.

Such steps are needed "to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance," it said.

Monday's meeting included permanent Security Council members Britain, the United States and France.

Russia's envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, did not attend, nor did the envoy from China.

Churkin last week rebuffed efforts at the UN for a humanitarian resolution, saying it "is not a good time to have any resolution discussed in the Security Council."

"My concern is if there is a resolution, it will be an effort to politicize," Churkin said on Thursday, calling for what he termed a "pragmatic approach" toward Syria, one of whose remaining allies is Russia.

Monday's meeting followed a successful but difficult UN operation to help Syrian civilians leave Homs at the weekend.

A ceasefire permitting the Homs evacuation proved fragile Saturday, with the first aid convoy coming under attack and mortar shells hitting a rebel-held district on Sunday, killing five people. Red Crescent teams on Sunday managed nevertheless to help 600 people leave the city.

Some 300 more people left on Monday, the Syrian Red Crescent said.

Activists have blamed pro-regime factions in neighborhoods bordering the besieged districts for the attacks, while Syrian state television said "armed terrorist groups" had fired during the UN operation.

The proposed UN resolution calls for an end of the "use of starvation as a method of combat."

It also urges the "rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave," and says humanitarian agencies must be given "unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria."

The proposed resolution also "demands that the Syrian authorities immediately cease all aerial bombardment in populated areas as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons," projectiles, missiles and barrel bombs, against civilians.