UN Security Council to vote on call for Idlib truce
UNITED NATIONS－The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Thursday on a draft resolution calling for a truce in northwest Syria.
The diplomatic initiative comes after the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed in Ankara on Monday to try to ease tensions in the war-ravaged country's Idlib region.
Syria's northwest corner, including Idlib, is the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands after more than eight years of war.
Experts from the council's 15 members have met three times to negotiate on the latest text drafted by Kuwait, Germany and Belgium last month. A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.
The draft resolution by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait "demands that member states ensure that all measures taken to counter terrorism, including in Idlib governorate, comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law".
It also stresses "that counterterrorism operations do not absolve parties to armed conflicts of their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants".
And it urges all parties to the Syrian conflict to distinguish between civilians and combatants, to apply the principle of "proportionality" and to take all feasible precautions "to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects".
Syrian government forces have been waging a five-month offensive in Idlib. Much of the region is controlled by militants linked to the former Nusra Front, which was connected to al-Qaida.
Shortly after the draft UN resolution was proposed, Damascus declared a cease-fire on Aug 31 which brought a lull in airstrikes. However, Syrian troops on Sunday shelled south of Idlib, according to rescuers and residents.
The UN said that since the start of hostilities in northwest Syria in April, more than 550 civilians have been killed and some 400,000 displaced. Almost half of the displaced people are living in open-air areas or under trees.
Although the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed to try ease tensions in Idlib at the Ankara meeting, disagreements among the countries appeared to linger, especially over the threat from the Islamic State group.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced last month that the world body would investigate attacks on UN-supported facilities and other humanitarian sites in northwest Syria.
The locations of the UN-supported facilities and other humanitarian sites like hospitals and health centers had been shared with the warring parties in a bid to protect them. However, the UN has questioned whether this decision has made these facilities targets.