09:36 GMT +315 December 2017
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    U.S. Hopes Russia Will Back Tougher Syria Resolution

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    The United States does not rule out that the UN Security Council member states will be able to agree on a Syria resolution, despite Russia’s threat to veto any such document if it implies the possibility of using sanctions or military force against the Syrian government.

    The United States does not rule out that the UN Security Council member states will be able to agree on a Syria resolution, despite Russia’s threat to veto any such document if it implies the possibility of using sanctions or military force against the Syrian government.

    “Having been myself a member of many United Nations Security Council sessions and many negotiations, there are a lot of times that people stake out positions publicly, but we negotiate these documents behind closed doors, and we come to an agreement among all 15 members of the Security Council about the best way forward,” U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said during a daily press briefing in Washington on Friday.

    “So one can try to negotiate it publicly, but ultimately, it will be negotiated behind closed doors,” he added.

    When asked whether he could recall a case when Russia threatened to veto a UN resolution and then let it pass, Ventrell said: "What I can tell you is there are a lot of times that people stake out a position that changes."

    The 15 UN Security Council member states began talks on Thursday on a Syria resolution designed to force the government of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces to lay down arms and begin negotiations to end the 17 months of violence in Syria.

    The conflict, which began in March last year, has left between 13,000 and 17,000 people dead, according to Syrian rights activists quoted by the United Nations.

    The United States, France, Britain and Germany have drafted a resolution that would give the Assad government ten days to comply with a previously agreed peace plan of face punishment ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to the use of military force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

    Russia said on Thursday it would veto the Western-backed draft if it is put to a vote at the UN Security Council.

    “We have stated repeatedly that Chapter 7 of the UN Charter is unacceptable to us,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

    Moscow and Beijing have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions that so much as hinted at sanctions again the Assad government.

    Russia has proposed its own draft resolution that would extend a UN monitoring mission to Syria for 90 days, without any threat of sanctions. France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said the Russian draft “has no teeth” and would fail to bring about any positive change in Syria.

    Western news agencies quoted on Friday Syrian opposition activists and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that between 100 and 220 people have been killed in an assault by government troops and pro-Assad Shabiha militiamen on a village in the Hama province in central Syria. The reports cannot be independently verified.

     

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