Russian veto threat to Syrian sanctions

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Russia has threatened to veto attempts to impose sanctions on Syria and put forward its own alternative plan.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin gave the text to its fellow veto-wielding permanent members of the council – the United States, Britain, France and China – at a meeting last night. The Russian plan includes some elements of the Western and Arab motion.

Negotiations were expected to see if the drafts can be merged into a compromise text.

Western diplomats say their goal is to win agreement from all 15 council members on a resolution demanding immediate and unrestricted access to all areas of Syria to deliver vital humanitarian aid.

But Mr Churkin dismissed the Western and Arab plan, which puts most of the blame for the humanitarian crisis on the Syrian government, as “political”.

It Western and Arab resolution calls for civilians be allowed to leave and calls on Syrian authorities to allow humanitarian access to people in need across conflict lines and across borders from neighboring countries, particularly Turkey and Iraq.

If the demands are not met within 15 days, the draft expresses the Security Council’s intention to impose non-military sanctions.

Russia and China, which supports the Syrian government, have blocked three previous Western-backed attempts to pressure the hereditary regime of Bashar Assad to end the now three-year-old civil war.

Russia has come under intense pressure over its opposition and support of the Assad regime.

Mr Obama said on Tuesday: “It is not just the Syrians that are responsible” for the plight of civilians but “the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution.”

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told a Security Council meeting on protection of civilians that “there are 250,000 people in areas of the country which are besieged”.

“They cannot leave and we cannot get aid in.”