Russia proposes UN resolution on Syria without sanctions

UNITED NATIONS - Russia on Tuesday proposed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that would extend the UN mission in the conflict-stricken country without any threat of sanctions, diplomats said.

The resolution was sent to the council's other 14 members ahead of a briefing on Wednesday by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on efforts to revive his peace plan, Russia's deputy UN envoy Igor Pankin told reporters.

Russia's move is the opening round in a potentially tense diplomatic battle at the Security Council that must decide the future of the UN observer mission in Syria by July 20.

Russia is the main ally of President Bashar al-Assad and has fiercely resisted international action against the Damascus government. The United States and European powers want sanctions against Assad over the conflict, in which activists say more than 17,000 people have died.

Pankin said the Russian resolution "is aimed at providing further support to the efforts of Kofi Annan and the implementation of his plan."

The draft, obtained by AFP, proposes extending the UN Supervision Mission in Syria for another three months. The UNSMIS mandate ends on July 20.

It also backs a proposal by UN leader Ban Ki-moon that the UN operation take on a more political mission and cut back the number of military observers.

The draft "strongly urges" all sides to immediately cease violence and calls for "urgent" and "immediate" implementation of Annan's plan.

But there is no threat of action against Assad and the Syrian opposition, even though Annan has said there should be "consequences" for not carrying out his plan.

The Russian draft commits the Security Council "to assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate."

Almost 300 UN unarmed military observers have been in Syria since April monitoring a ceasefire that has never taken hold. The observers suspended patrols on June 16 because of the growing danger.

Western nations have been demanding pressure on Assad to carry out Annan's peace plan and are likely to reject the Russian text.

"It's basically a rollover," said a diplomat from another Security Council country of the Russian draft. "At minimum, it needs to be combined with some pressure."

The United States and European powers have drafted their own resolution, but have not yet decided whether to circulate it to the council.

The Western states had wanted application of the Annan peace plan to be made mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter so that follow-up action, including sanctions, could at least be threatened.

Russia and China have twice used their powers as permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions on Syria that hinted at sanctions.

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