The Latest: UN drops Syria cease-fire deal, welcomes talks

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UNDATED (AP) — The latest on the conflict in Syria, and the Russia and Turkey brokered cease-fire agreement between Syria's government and opposition rebels. All times local.

7:45 p.m.

Diplomats say the U.N. Security Council will vote at 1 p.m. EST Saturday on a newly revised draft resolution that drops an endorsement of the Syria cease-fire agreement and instead "welcomes and supports" efforts by Russia and Turkey to end the violence and jumpstart political negotiations.

Western members of the council sought changes to the Russian draft during closed consultations to clarify the role of the U.N. and the meaning of the agreement brokered by Moscow and Ankara. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the consultations were still continuing in private.

The final draft also calls for the "rapid, safe and unhindered" delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Syria and looks forward to a meeting of the Syrian government and opposition representativese in Kazakhstan's capital Astana in late January.

During closed door consultations Saturday morning, the text was changed 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," according to the final draft obtained by The Associated Press.


7:30 p.m.

Western members of the U.N. Security Council are seeking changes to the draft resolution endorsing the cease-fire agreement in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey.

New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen told reporters before the council started closed consultations Saturday morning that "we need some more clarity about what the agreements provide, and we want to know how this relates to the U.N. process."

He said members know what the agreement says but want clarity on what it means.

"To take an example, it exempts from the agreement areas of active combat operations against the terrorists," van Bohemen said. "Does it mean the whole of (rebel-held) Idlib, for example? That would concern us."

The revised draft resolution circulated by Russia "endorses" the cease-fire documents.

"That's another problem," van Bohemen said, "because we don't want to endorse an agreement that we don't fully understand its implications."

"We do hope there will be an outcome that we can all support,"


2 p.m.

Activists say besieged opposition pockets around the Syrian capital of Damascus have seen no reprieve in fighting despite a nationwide cease-fire agreement that went into effect over 36 hours ago.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says Saturday that at least two civilians and five militants have been killed in battles over opposition-held Eastern Ghouta and Barada Valley regions.

The Barada Valley Media Center says Russian and Syrian government aircraft are striking villages in the water-rich region for the 10th consecutive day. The raids have coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since Dec. 22. The valley is the region's primary source of water.

The Syrian military on Friday denied attacking the valley, saying it would not violate the truce brokered by Russia and Turkey.

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