Syrian truce holds as UN ponders vote

  • 31/12/2016

Russia has urged the UN Security Council to give its blessing to a fragile ceasefire in Syria, the third truce this year seeking to end the nearly six years of war in Syria.

The Russian-brokered truce appears to be largely holding, despite various flashpoints around the country.

The Security Council met behind closed doors for an hour on Friday to consider a proposed resolution endorsing the ceasefire that Russia and Turkey announced on Thursday.

A vote is possible as early as Saturday, although Security Council members recommended changes to the draft and it will likely be revised, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia told reporters after the meeting.

"I think those accommodations can be easily absorbed into the draft," he said.

It was not immediately clear if the resolution would win broad support. The text would be closely studied overnight, one Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred the truce on Friday shortly after it went into force at midnight (2200 GMT on Thursday), and violence appeared to escalate later on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the parties were prepared to start peace talks intended to take place in Astana in Kazakhstan. Syrian state media said late on Thursday those talks would take place "soon."

Asked by a reporter whether the Astana talks would compete with talks that UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura plans to convene in Geneva on February 8, Churkin said there was no conflict.

"If they're successful, they could move on to Geneva as far as I am concerned," he said.

Mr Churkin told reporters earlier on Friday that the seven rebel groups involved in talks so far represent 60,000 fighters, and that others would be welcome.

"All those who really want to enter into serious negotiations with the government, who regard themselves as opposition but are prepared to enter into serious negotiations with the government, they're welcome to show up in Astana, so we'll see," he said.

Reuters / Newshub.