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UN Security Council proposes roadmap for Syria peace process

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United Nations: In order to bring an end to the country’s conflict, the UN Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution and proposed an international roadmap for a Syrian-led political transition, which called for Syria peace talks to begin in early January.

The unanimously adopted resolution also called for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria to come into effect “as soon as the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition have begun initial steps towards a political transition under UN auspices”, Xinhua reported.

The 15-nation council expressed its support for statements agreed during previous talks in Geneva, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria while stressing that “the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria”.

“The only sustainable solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” it said.

Friday’s Security Council meeting was chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry, as the US holds the council’s rotating presidency for the month of December.

Kerry said after the vote that the resolution has sent a clear message that “the time is now to stop the killing in Syria”.

The resolution has requested UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition for peace talks “on an urgent basis,” and also to determine the requirements and modalities of a ceasefire, which are also stated in Geneva and Vienna documents.

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban pledged that “the United Nations stands ready to undertake these important tasks”. He noted that “the Syrian conflict began with peaceful popular demands for political change, but it soon became defined by internal, regional and international divisions — including in this very Council.”

The conflict in Syria erupted in March 2011. The nearly-five-year war claimed more than a quarter million lives.

Ban urged the Syrian parties to immediately stop the use of indiscriminate weapons against civilians and to halt attacks on medical and educational facilities.

He also asked the Syrian parties to allow unconditional and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid convoys to help tens of thousands of people in need.

According to UN humanitarian agency, some 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced. About 4.5 million people continue to live in areas that are hard to reach for the humanitarian community while almost 400,000 of those are besieged. (IANS)

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Clash at UN with Russia, Syria over Syria Hospital Attacks

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria

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The destroyed building of Nabd Al-Hayat hospital that was hit by an air strike is seen in Hass, Idlib province, Syria, May 6, 2019 in this still image taken from a video on May 9, 2019. VOA

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria, prompting a confrontation between western powers and Russia and Syria at the Security Council over who is to blame.

While the area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed in September to avert a new battle, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces — backed by Russians — have launched an offensive on the last major insurgent stronghold. Some three million civilians are at risk, the United Nations said.

“Since we know that Russia and Syria are the only countries that fly planes in the area, is the answer … the Russian and Syrian air forces?” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said to the 15-member council on where the blame lay.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said Russia and Syria were responsible for the attacks on the health centers. He said it was “most alarming” that several of the centers attacked were on a list created by Russia and the United Nations in an attempt to protect them.

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United Kingdom Ambassador Karen Pierce address a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Oct. 23, 2018 at UN headquarters. VOA

Pierce said it would be “absolutely grotesque” if health facilities that provided their locations were “finding themselves being the authors of their own destruction because of deliberated targeting by the regime.”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the Syrian and Russian forces were not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and questioned the sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks on health centers.

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U. N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Mark Lowcock attends a news conference for the launch of the “Global Humanitarian Overview 2019” at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 4, 2018. VOA

“We categorically reject accusations of violations of international humanitarian law,” Nebenzia told the council. “Our goal is the terrorists.”

An array of insurgents have a foothold in northwestern Syria – Idlib province and a belt of territory around it. The most powerful is the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front which was part of al Qaeda until 2016.

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U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council he did not know who was responsible, but “at least some of these attacks are clearly organized by people with access to sophisticated weapons including a modern air force and so called smart or precision weapons.”

Lowcock said 49 health centers had partially or totally suspended activities, some for fear of being attacked, while 17 schools have been damaged or destroyed and many more closed. He said that in the past three weeks up to 160 people have been killed and at least 180,000 people displaced.

U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned the Security Council: “If the escalation continues and the offensive pushes forward, we risk catastrophic humanitarian fallout and threats to international peace and security.” (VOA)