“Spare no effort” to protect civilians in Idlib, UN Secretary-General says

“Spare no effort” to protect civilians in Idlib, UN Secretary-General says

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to “spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians” in the rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib.

Mr Guterres said it was “absolutely essential” to avoid full-scale conflict in Idlib province, which “would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict.”

Idlib is the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria and home to some 3.5 million people, at least half of whom have fled there from areas retaken by the Syrian Government.

The Syrian Government and Russia commenced airstrikes in Idlib, saying they are targeting terrorist groups in the region.

“I understand that the present situation in Idlib is not sustainable and the presence of terrorist groups cannot be tolerated. But fighting terrorism does not absolve warring parties of their core obligations under international law,” Guterres told reporters in New York.

The UN Security Council met at the request of Russia, which briefed the other members on a summit it held with Iran and Turkey to discuss plans to retake Idlib.

Turkish ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu told the Security Council that “an all-out military operation would result in a major humanitarian catastrophe” and trigger a “massive wave of refugees and tremendous security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond.”

Turkey has called for the international community to support an immediate ceasefire, but Russia and Iran have rejected that possibility.

“We cannot allow terrorists to hold hostage and use hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib as human shields,” Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 and is a conflict involving many factions; the main participants being the Syrian Government, the Syrian opposition, the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, and Islamic State.

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