A new U.S.-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria is only slightly different from a draft Moscow vetoed last month and needs to be more balanced, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Monday.
Western envoys at the United Nations said last week the United States had drafted an outline for a new resolution demanding access for humanitarian aid workers in besieged Syrian towns and an end to the violence there.
In a posting on Twitter, Gatilov made clear Russia would not support the draft in its current form.
The new U.S. draft U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria is a slightly modified version of the previous vetoed document. It needs to be significantly balanced, he said.
On February 4, Russia and China vetoed a Western-Arab draft resolution supporting an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cede power, the second resolution they have blocked in a year of bloodshed in Syria.
Russia said the previous resolution was unacceptable because it put too little blame for the violence on Assad's armed opponents and would have forced government forces to withdraw from cities without making equal demands on rebels.
In Washington, the State Department said it was open to further discussions with Russia and other countries, but stressed that the Assad government must be held accountable in any eventual resolution.
It has to be balanced where reality is balanced, which in our view starts and ends with the violence of the Assad regime, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
It remains to be seen how the Russians will play this going forward, Nuland said. We hope that their sense of humanity and compassion will encourage them to join us in pressing the Assad regime to silence its guns.
Since imposing the veto, Russia has said it is open to further efforts to use the Security Council's influence to halt the violence, in which the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 7,500 people.
Russia has also stepped up efforts to engage with Arab states, indicating it wants a strong hand in diplomacy on Syria.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he hoped a meeting with Arab counterparts this week could bring the world closer to an agreement on how to help end the bloodshed in Syria, but gave no sign Moscow would stop protecting Assad.
Lavrov said he would join Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Saturday. I think our meeting could produce very interesting ground work that we would promote in a broader international format, Lavrov told journalists.
He said Russia and the Arab League shared fundamental goals for Syria, but criticized Western and Arab calls for Moscow to pressure Assad's government. Russia has rejected pleas to press for Assad's resignation and urged nations with influence on his armed opponents to get them to stop fighting.
We are convinced of the need not to await some magical actions from one another but to sit down together and try to agree how we can all take a common line ... to influence all sides in Syria to stop shooting at each other, sit down for negotiations and start an inclusive national dialogue, he said.
Since their double veto last month, Moscow and Beijing have voiced support for humanitarian relief efforts in Syria but said they must not be used as a pretext for intervention.
Lavrov said there was no need to put new initiatives on the table at the meeting in Cairo, suggesting the ministers could work from an initiative the Arab League adopted in November and a Security Council resolution Russia proposed to counter Western and Arab drafts.
He made no mention of a separate Arab League plan, adopted in January, which called for Assad to cede power. The draft resolution Russia and China vetoed on February 4 would have expressed full support for that Arab League plan.
Russia says any internal Syrian political dialogue must not be subject to preconditions such as Assad's resignation.
Russia says its policy on Syria is not motivated by an alliance with Assad, whose government has given Russia its firmest Middle East foothold, including its only naval facility on the Mediterranean. Moscow says its vetoes were driven by a desire to avert further violence and block interference in Syria's internal affairs.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; editing by Giles Elgood and Todd Eastham)