France discusses new Syria U.N. resolution with Russia
PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Wednesday it was discussing a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria with Russia and wanted the council to consider creating "humanitarian corridors" in the country.
"We are renegotiating a resolution at the U.N. Security Council to persuade the Russians," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France Info radio.
Russia joined China on February 4 in a double veto of a Council resolution supporting an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit, provoking strong criticism from the Western and Arab states pushing for the draft.
Since then, violence has intensified with Syrian forces assaulting rebellious cities. On Wednesday troops backed by armored personnel carriers stormed a Damascus suburb.
At the United Nations, the General Assembly is due to vote on Thursday on a draft resolution that backs the Arab League plan and calls for the appointment of a joint U.N.-League envoy on Syria. There are no vetoes in General Assembly votes and its decisions are not legally binding.
Juppe, who is set to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Vienna the same day, said the vote would be symbolic and would add to pressure on the Damascus government, whose 11-month-old crackdown he described as a crime against humanity.
Paris said on Tuesday it had created an emergency fund for aid agencies looking to help the Syrian people and would propose a similar one at an international level when a "Friends of Syria" contact group meets in Tunisia next week.
"The idea of humanitarian corridors that I previously proposed to allow NGOs to reach the zones where there are scandalous massacres should be discussed at the Security Council," Juppe said.
Juppe in November suggested creating humanitarian corridors with Syrian approval or with an international mandate for shipping food and medicine to alleviate civilian suffering.
Under that plan, the corridors would link Syrian population centers to the frontiers of Turkey and Lebanon, to the Mediterranean coast or to an airport.
Juppe has said the idea fell short of military intervention and that if Damascus did not support it, Paris would seek a Security Council mandate.
The Arab League on Sunday threw its support behind Syria's opposition and called for a joint U.N.-Arab peacekeeping force to quell the violence.
Juppe did not say whether armed opposition groups operating loosely under the label of the Syrian Free Army should be given weapons as some Arab officials have suggested, saying the risk of civil war was "extremely high."
"What we want is to end the violence not encourage it," Juppe said.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Alistair Lyon)