UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution supporting efforts by Russia and Turkey to end the nearly six-year conflict in Syria and jumpstart peace negotiations.
The resolution approved Saturday afternoon also calls for the "rapid, safe and unhindered" delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Syria. And it looks forward to a meeting of the Syrian government and opposition representative in Kazakhstan's capital Astana in late January.
Western members of the council had sought changes to the draft resolution circulated by Russia and Turkey during consultations Saturday morning to clarify the role of the U.N. and the meaning of the agreement brokered by Moscow and Ankara.
The final text dropped an endorsement of the Syria cease-fire agreement brokered by Moscow and Ankara, and it changed the draft to call the Astana meeting "an important step ahead of the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on Feb. 8, 2017."
Russia and Turkey are on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict: Moscow along with Iran provides crucial military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has long served as a rear base and source of supplies for the rebels.
Divisions in the Security Council between Russia and the veto-wielding Western powers — the U.S. Britain and France who support the moderate opposition and demand that Assad steps down — have blocked action to end the war.
Russia and Turkey first sent the cease-fire agreement and the draft resolution to Security Council members Thursday night. After closed discussions in the council Friday morning, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a revised draft, urged council members to support it and called for the vote on Saturday.
The Security Council needs to participate "in this important process," Churkin said.
The cease-fire agreement, if it holds, would mark a potential breakthrough in a conflict that began in 2011 with an uprising against decades of rule by Assad's family and has left over 250,000 dead and more than 13.5 million people in need of urgent assistance, and triggered a refugee crisis across Europe.