| UNITED NATIONS
UNITED NATIONS Russia urged the U.N. Security Council on Friday to give its blessing to a fragile ceasefire in Syria, the third truce this year seeking to end nearly six years of war in Syria.
The Security Council met behind closed doors for an hour to consider a proposed resolution endorsing the ceasefire that Russia and Turkey announced on Thursday.
Diplomats said Russia has requested that the 15-member council vote on the resolution at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Saturday.
It was not immediately clear if the resolution would win broad support. The text would be closely studied overnight, one Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred the truce on Friday shortly after it went into force at midnight (2200 GMT Thursday), and violence appeared to escalate later on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the parties were prepared to start peace talks intended to take place in Astana in Kazakhstan. Syrian state media said late on Thursday those talks would take place "soon."
Asked by a reporter whether the Astana talks would compete with talks that U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura plans to convene in Geneva on Feb. 8, Churkin said there was no conflict.
"If they're successful, they could move on to Geneva as far as I am concerned," he said.
Churkin told reporters earlier on Friday that the seven rebel groups involved in talks so far represent 60,000 fighters, and that others would be welcome.
"All those who really want to enter into serious negotiations with the government, who regard themselves as opposition but are prepared to enter into serious negotiations with the government, they're welcome to show up in Astana, so we'll see," he said.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Howard Goller and James Dalgleish)