Western powers amend UN draft resolution on Syria

Syrian pro-government forces sit amidst destroyed buildings in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on April 20, 2018, during an army-organised media tour
AFP

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – France, the United States and Britain have amended a draft resolution on Syria, seeking UN Security Council support for a political and humanitarian response to the conflict that has so far met resistance from Russia.

The original draft, which failed to get the support of Russia, expressed outrage and condemnation of the April 7 chemical attack in the town of Douma, where more than 40 people were killed.

The latest version, which was obtained by AFP, also condemns the attack but was amended to read “the reported use of chemical weapons.”

France, the United States and Britain launched retaliatory air strikes a week ago after accusing the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out the attack.

Damascus and Moscow have denied the attack happened, claiming video of the aftermath was staged.

A team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has yet to gain access to the site.

The new draft resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to explore ways to resume the formal negotiations” on a political settlement to the seven-year-old conflict.

It encourages Guterres through his special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, “to form a constitutional committee comprising representatives of all segments of the Syrian society.”

That suggestion could be welcomed by Moscow, since the creation of such a committee was proposed in January at a summit hosted by Russia in Sochi. Damascus, however, rejected it and the idea went nowhere.

The conflict in Syria is the main topic of an informal Security Council retreat in Sweden this weekend.

Diplomats said the latest draft will be raised there, but is not a subject of negotiations.

France said an initial meeting on the Western draft resolution was “constructive,” even though Russia took only a passive role in those discussions.

Several UN Security Council members remain dubious that the changes in the latest draft resolution will lead to a breakthrough.

“We need new ideas on political side to move forward,” a Swedish diplomat said Wednesday in briefing on the UN Security Council trip to Sweden.

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