UN chief calls on Russia, Turkey to 'stabilize' Syrian province

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


UN chief Antonio Guterres called on Russia and Turkey Tuesday to "stabilize the situation" in the Syrian province of Idlib, rocked by intense fighting between pro-government and jihadist-led forces.

"I am deeply concerned about the escalation of the fighting in Idlib and the situation is specially dangerous given the involvement of an increased number of actors. Yet again civilians are paying a horrific price," Guterres told reporters.

His comments came ahead of an open UN Security Council session to discuss the situation, at the request of Belgium, Germany and Kuwait, non-permanent council members overseeing UN humanitarian operations in Syria.

Guterres appealed to Russia and Turkey, as signatories of a September 2018 memorandum aimed at deescalating the conflict in Idlib, "to stabilize the situation without delay."

"There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. The solution must be political," he said, stressing the need to respect human rights and international humanitarian law "even in the fight against terrorism."

The United States asked that political aspects of the conflict also be addressed at the upcoming Security Council meeting, a diplomat said.

UN under-secretaries-general for political and for humanitarian affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo and Mark Lowcock, were expected to address the meeting.

In May, the council held several meetings on Syria and the situation in the rebel-held province of Idlib. The UN feared a humanitarian catastrophe if fighting in the northwest region continued.

In recent weeks, Idlib has been the target of nearly daily bombardments by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.

The region was designated a demilitarized zone in September under an agreement between Russia and Turkey. This spared Idlib a major offensive.

The spike in violence in the province that is home to around three million people has left more than 400 people dead since late April and displaced 270,000 others, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syria's war began in 2011 and has now claimed more than 370,000 lives. Several million more have been displaced.