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Russia opposes UN declaration calling for Syria ceasefire: diplomats

United Nations, United States, Feb 19 – Russia on Wednesday objected to the UN Security Council adopting a statement that would have called for a ceasefire in northwest Syria, diplomats said, after a tense closed-door meeting.

“We tried very hard to have a press statement calling for cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to Idlib,” Nicolas de Riviere, French ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters.

“Basically Russia said no, which is very painful.”

“There is no statement … It was not possible,” confirmed his Belgian counterpart, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, the current council president.

One diplomat said that during the meeting, Russia had angrily criticized Western nations for not understanding its position. “The council is completely paralyzed,” the diplomat said.

Russia’s opposition to the statement was backed by China, diplomats said.

The UN envoy to Syria said earlier the country was on the brink of worsening violence after an exchange of fierce threats between key players Turkey and Russia.

“I cannot report any progress in ending the current violence in the northwest or in reconvening the political process,” Geir Pedersen told the council in New York.

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“Russian and Turkish delegations have met intensively in recent days … but no understanding has yet emerged,” he said.

“To the contrary, public statements from different quarters, Syrian and international, suggest an imminent danger of further escalation.”

– Regime onslaught –

Syrian aid workers are calling for an urgent ceasefire and international help for nearly a million people fleeing the regime’s onslaught in Idlib — the biggest wave of displaced civilians in the nine-year conflict.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday warned that Turkey would launch an offensive into Syria unless Damascus pulled its forces back by the end of the month.

“We are counting down, we are making our final warnings,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

He called for Syrian forces to retreat behind Turkey’s military posts in Idlib, which were set up under a 2018 deal with Russia designed to hold off a regime advance.

Russia quickly responded to Erdogan’s threat, warning that any operation against Syrian forces would be “the worst scenario.”

Turkey, a supporter of some rebel groups in Idlib, has been pushing for a renewed ceasefire in talks with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime.

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Ankara is eager to prevent another flood of refugees into its territory adding to the 3.7 million Syrians it already hosts.

The UN said 900,000 people had been displaced in “horrendous conditions” since December 1, more than 500,000 of them children.

At the segment of the Security Council meeting that was held in public, German ambassador Christoph Heusgen said it was time for UN chief Antonio Guterres “to step up to the plate.”

“We have an immense responsibility that we face here as the United Nations, as the Security Council, to stop what is happening,” Heusgen said.

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