UNITED NATIONS Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Thursday that seeks to boost cross-border humanitarian access in Syria but it was not immediately clear if Russia and China would support the move.
After more than a month of negotiations with the permanent veto-wielding council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - the draft text will now be discussed with the remaining elected members next week, diplomats said.
Western members have tried to reach a compromise with Russia - a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and China by using language in the draft similar to that used in a unanimously adopted resolution on Syria's chemical weapons.
Russia, supported by China, has already vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against Assad's government amid a three-year civil war that has killed at least 150,000 people.
The draft resolution threatens measures, such as sanctions, against any Syrian party who does not comply with the council's demands for the immediate and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout the country.
This would mean that for any action to be taken, the Security Council would need to agree on a second resolution.
Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan drafted the text as a follow-up to their unanimously adopted February resolution on aid access in Syria, which has failed to make a difference.
The United Nations says some 10.8 million people in Syria need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas, while another three million have fled the conflict.
The draft does not reference Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the council's authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or military force, though the language is the same as what would normally be in a Chapter 7 resolution.
Russia says it would veto a Chapter 7 resolution that would allow cross-border aid deliveries without Syrian government consent. In a letter to the Security Council last month, Syria warned that such deliveries would amount to an attack, suggesting it would have the right to retaliate.
The United Nations said in April it would need a Chapter 7 resolution to be able to deliver aid across borders without the Syrian government's consent.
But the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs has deemed the draft resolution strong enough to allow the United Nations cross-border aid access without the approval of Damascus, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The draft text would authorize deliveries across four crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.
Russia said last month the Syrian government agreed to open the four crossings, but Australian U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan said that plan was "not good enough" because the Syrian government wanted to impose restrictive conditions on the U.N. operations.
The draft resolution would establish a U.N. monitoring mechanism to observe the loading of all humanitarian relief convoys that would enter Syria.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)