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Sunday, December 18

UN agrees on Aleppo monitoring conditions; vote tomorrow morning

There are several reports on the UN negotiations but I'm using the following one from the Wall Street Journal because it succinctly conveys the American view. (From RT, here's the Russian view.)  

I have two remarks about the WSJ report. It quotes a British official's characterization of the UN as an impartial observer, which I'd dispute. Second, it follows the rest of Natoist-Gulf Arab reporting in that it describes the victory in E. Aleppo as the "fall" to government troops. No, it's a liberation.       

U.N. Reaches Deal on Aleppo Monitoring
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
Updated Dec. 18, 2016 - 5:19 p.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal

Draft resolution amended by Russia calls on U.N. teams to ensure safe passage for evacuees and immediate access to aid

UNITED NATIONS—The U.N. Security Council reached an agreement Sunday on a resolution to deploy United Nations monitors to eastern Aleppo to supervise the evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters there.

The rare compromise, which came after more than three hours of closed consultation, signals a potential breakthrough in the standoff between Russia and the U.S. and its European allies over how to bring relief to civilians in the besieged city.

The resolution drafted by France and amended by Russia calls for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately to dispatch U.N. teams already on the ground in Syria to areas of eastern Aleppo to ensure safe passage for evacuees, as well as immediate access to humanitarian aid and the protection of medical personnel and hospitals, diplomats said.

The Council is expected to adopt the resolution unanimously in a vote on Monday, they said.

“We had intense negotiations,” said France’s Ambassador to the U.N., François Delattre, adding that the discussion was difficult but constructive and in good spirit.

Mr. Delattre said some members on the Council asked to delay the vote to Monday to give them time to consult with their capitals. He didn’t name them.

Diplomats didn’t offer details of the new text but said that compromise was reached with Russia to include language stating that the U.N. and international monitoring teams should consult with all the parties in the conflict before the teams are dispatched. While it didn’t mention the Syrian government, diplomats said, the understanding was that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be consulted.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power played down the concession to Russia, saying that it was inevitable that in a war zone “a number of elements” needed to be engaged. She said the text allowed for up to some 100 U.N. monitors to team up with international rescue organizations such as the Red Cross.

Still, a requirement to consult and coordinate with Syria’s government and involved parties—such as Russia, Iran and Shiite militia groups—leaves open the possibility that any of those parties could deny the monitors access.

The original text of the French resolution had asked for redeployment within five days of the U.N.’s “humanitarian staff already on the ground to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring, direct observation, and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians inside Aleppo."

Russia had threatened to veto it Sunday morning, with Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin calling it a “political provocation” that was bound to create “disaster” on the ground.

“The idea that they [monitors] should be told to go to wander around the ruins of eastern Aleppo without proper preparation and without informing everybody about what is going to happen, this has disaster written all over it,” Mr. Churkin said before heading to the Council meeting.

When he left the meeting, Mr. Churkin said it had been “good hours of work.”

Evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters has been delayed and periodically suspended since Russia and Turkey brokered a cease-fire deal to allow safe passage for those trapped in eastern Aleppo. The operation stalled again Friday, with the Syrian regime and its opposition trading blame for an outbreak of gunfire. Activists say militants have burned at least five buses assigned to evacuate people from two villages in northern Syria, according to the Associated Press.

Diplomats had warned that Russia’s rejection of the monitoring resolution would signal that Moscow and its allies wanted to remain in tight control of eastern Aleppo even in the aftermath of its fall to the regime and the thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas with no food, medicine or heat.

“This is a way of ensuring that there are impartial observers and there is no possible reason to object to that unless you’re worried about what they’re going to find,” said the U.K.’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson.

[END REPORT]

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