Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks on Syria, in New York today:
I am here to make an appeal about the unfolding situation in Syria’s Idlib province. So much is at stake.
It is absolutely essential to avoid a full-scale battle in Idlib. This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict.
Almost half of Idlib’s population of 2.9 million people had gone there to seek refuge from conflict elsewhere in Syria. They include close to 1 million children. Their lives have been upended and they have nowhere to go.
Idlib is the last so-called “de-escalation zone” in Syria. It must not be transformed into a blood bath.
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.
I appeal to all parties directly and indirectly involved — and in particular, the three guarantors of the de-escalation zone, namely Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey: spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians. Preserve basic services and hospitals. Ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.
It also goes without saying in the twentieth century: any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable. Beyond the immediate human toll, such use would lead to a situation spiralling out of control.
All these factors underscore the urgent need to make greater progress in the Geneva process, and in particular, the creation of a constitutional committee as part of the overall political package.
As I always said, there is no military solution to the conflict. The solution must be political. I will continue to repeat these messages to the Security Council and all parties, both privately and publicly. And my Special Envoy will continue his around-the-clock efforts.
We have a collective responsibility to protect people who have already suffered so much. Thank you.