European nations and Russia proposed rival UN resolutions on Friday, both calling for expanding the number of UN cease-fire monitors in Syria from 30 to 300, but disagreeing on possible sanctions and on how quickly the larger observer force should get on the ground.
The Associated Press reported that after several hours of negotiations by Security Council experts, Russia circulated a merged text, and council ambassadors met behind closed doors to discuss it.
Russia's UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, was quoted as having said he was “looking forward to adoption” of a resolution on Saturday.
Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, however, that “there are some difficulties” with the new text.
The key difference in the original texts, both of which were obtained by AP, is whether there should be a sustained cease-fire before the expanded force is deployed.
The European draft, according to the report, would authorize a force of 300 observers but condition its deployment to notification from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Syria has implemented its pledge to withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns “to his satisfaction.”
The draft resolution stresses that it is critically important to create “a sustained cessation of violence” and establish “a conducive environment” for the large mission to deploy.
In contrast, the draft proposed by Russia would immediately establish the 300-strong force without any conditions, though it does underline the importance that international envoy Kofi Annan's attaches to Syria's withdrawal of troops and weapons.
Another difference in the texts is whether Syria should face possible sanctions if it fails to send its troops and heavy weapons back to barracks.
The European draft expresses the Council's intention, in the event of Syrian non-compliance, to adopt non-military sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which would likely include economic measures such as asset freezes, and travel bans. The Russian draft makes no mention of such measures.
The Security Council united last Saturday for the first time since the Syrian conflict began 13 months ago to adopt a resolution authorizing the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 UN observers.
Some of these observers have already arrived in the country and were witness to some of the violence on Wednesday. Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-regime demonstrators surrounding the cars of the monitoring team, sending the observers speeding off and protesters dashing for cover.
The violence in Syria has continued despite a cease-fire, brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, which was supposed to go into effect last Thursday.
At least 18 Syrian security forces were killed in a series of attacks on Friday. In addition, local human rights groups reported that 13 civilians were killed across the country.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)