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Russia requests Security Council approval of Syria ceasefire

UN Security Council may vote on resolution endorsing ceasefire as early as Saturday
Security Council met on Friday to discuss ceasefire (AFP)

As a nationwide ceasefire continues in Syria, Russia has asked the United Nations Security Council to approve of the truce.

On Friday, the Security Council met to discuss the ceasefire and a vote may happen as early as Saturday, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Al Jazeera was given a draft resolution on endorsing the ceasefire, which includes the establishment of a delegation for the armed opposition for talks in Kazakhstan on 23 January.

The UN will also be included in the talks, the draft resolution said.

According to Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, recommendations from other Security Council members will probably be included in the resolution.

"I think those accommodations can be easily absorbed into the draft," he said.

The council held closed-door consultations on the text early Friday.

Russia later amended the draft at the request of several member states.

While Churkin voiced hope that the council could vote Saturday "and adopt it unanimously," diplomats said they were sceptical that such a vote would take place.

The ceasefire deal calls for negotiations over a political solution to end the conflict that has killed more than 310,000 people since 2011 and forced millions to flee.

The ceasefire - which involves 13 groups representing 60,000 fighters who control "large chunks" of Syria - appeared to be "holding adequately," the Russian envoy said.

The deal excludes militant groups including the Islamic State and Fateh al-Sham Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as al-Nusra Front.

Russia's plan, which pointedly excludes the United States, does not overlap with an initiative for negotiations in February mediated by UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, Churkin said.

Nevertheless, Moscow expects the UN will be "fully involved" in preparing for the Astana talks, he added.

"We hope others will join in, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar," Churkin said.

Diplomats said they did not see how a quick weekend vote would occur.

"It needs to be studied seriously," said one Western diplomat.

There are still "a lot of unanswered questions," said another Western diplomat, adding that Russia might be hard-pressed to muster the nine votes needed for its resolution to pass.

The latest draft of the resolution, a copy of which was seen by AFP, "endorses the documents mediated and issued by Russia and Turkey on December 29".

It "stresses the importance of their full and immediate implementation and calls upon all parties to be guided by the aforementioned documents and provide support to their implementation".

As opposed to the first draft, the text also includes a reference to the talks being led by de Mistura, the UN special envoy.

It says the council views the eventual Astana talks as "an important part of the Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations".