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Russia Insists on ‘Monopolizing’ Aleppo’s Fate | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Muhammed Salih, 26, from Aleppo, Syria, holds his son (name not given) after crossing into Turkey at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria near Hatay on Sunday, Dec, 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Beirut, New York – Russia’s actions at the U.N. Security Council on Sunday – by not only vetoing a French draft resolution but also presenting its own rival plan – showed that Moscow seems determined to monopolize the fate of Aleppo.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters as he headed into closed Security Council consultations earlier Sunday that he would veto a French-drafted resolution on Aleppo.

We cannot allow it to pass because this is a disaster,” Churkin told journalists.

The French draft resolution would request that U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon quickly redeploy U.N. humanitarian staff already in Syria to the city “to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring, direct observation and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians inside Aleppo.”

However, a copy of the rival Russian draft resolution obtained by AFP does not mention any presence of observers, but only asks the secretary-general to provide security and other arrangements “in coordination with the interested parties” – which include the Syrian government now in control of eastern Aleppo – to allow U.N. personnel “to monitor the condition of civilians remaining in Aleppo in light of international humanitarian law.”

Later on Sunday, diplomats said an agreement on a compromise U.N. resolution was reached at the Security Council to be voted on Monday.

Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian regime halted a decision to resume the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo on Sunday.

The evacuation was expected to start on Sunday evening in the city of Aleppo and the two Shi’ite villages of Al-Fuaa and Kefraya in the Idlib province, but was later postponed to an undetermined date.

Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel group confirmed to AFP that, “The evacuations have been momentarily suspended.”

The Syrian opposition had reached a final agreement with Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranians in Syria to remove families and opposition fighters from the last pockets of eastern Aleppo to the west countryside of the city in return of allowing the exit of 4000 civilians from the two Shi’ite towns of Al-Fuaa and Kefraya, together with the exit of around 1000 civilians and injured from the towns of Zabadani, Madaya and Bakin in the Damascus province.

An official at the Ahrar al-Sham in Aleppo Mohammed al-Shami told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ceiling of negotiations had importantly increased during the past two days before negotiating parties reached a final agreement on Saturday evening to start the execution on Sunday.

Al-Shami said that last week, Iranians have started exerting pressure with an aim to attach the file of Kefraya and Al Fuaa to the evacuation process after a Russian-Turkish agreement was reached to evacuate the city of Aleppo from civilians and opposition fighters.

Syrian state television reported on Sunday that buses carrying fighters and their families from east Aleppo have started to leave the last area controlled by armed opposition in the city, in return of evacuating people from the two Shi’ite villages of Al-Fuaa and Kefraya. However, a security incident was about to change the scene and to threaten the deal when around 20 armed men had attacked the outskirts of the two villages before buses entered to evacuate civilians. The opposition quickly contained the incident.

A senior military source told AFP on Sunday the attack should not affect any of the evacuation operations.

“There’s collective will for the deal to stay in place. There must be solutions for all obstacles,” the source said.