UN diplomats locked in talks on Syria ceasefire

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (centre) and French Ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre speak before the United Nations Security Council vote for ceasefire to Syrian bombing in eastern Ghouta, at the United Nations head
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (centre) and French Ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre speak before the United Nations Security Council vote for ceasefire to Syrian bombing in eastern Ghouta, at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Feb 24, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - A UN Security Council meeting to vote on a 30-day ceasefire in Syria failed to start as scheduled at 1700 GMT on Saturday (Feb 24) as negotiations continued in an effort to avert a Russian veto, diplomats said.

It was not immediately known if the vote would be postponed on a draft resolution demanding a truce to allow humanitarian aid deliveries and the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters as she went into the council chamber: "Today we are going to see if Russia has a conscience." Russia is supporting the Syrian government, and the UN negotiations have stumbled over Russian demands that rebel groups fighting government forces comply with the truce.

Negotiations on Friday led to amendments to the proposed measure, which now states that the ceasefire will begin "without delay," not after 72 hours as provided in a previous draft.

The text demands the lifting of all sieges including in Eastern Ghouta, where Syrian government forces are waging a fierce bombing campaign.

The vote, initially expected on Thursday, was delayed to Friday and finally rescheduled for Saturday.

Sweden and Kuwait presented the measure two weeks ago.