UN chief Antonio Guterres called on Russia and Turkey Tuesday to “stabilise the situation” in the Syrian province of Idlib, rocked by intense fighting that the UN body warned is creating a humanitarian disaster.
“I am deeply concerned about the escalation of the fighting in Idlib and the situation is especially 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 a UN Security Council session on Tuesday to discuss the situation.
The world is facing “a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes,” Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian chief, told the council.
Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib -- the last bastion of jihadist forces in Syria -- are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.
But it was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone.
In January, jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) -- led by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate -- extended its administrative control over the region.
The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region in Syria’s northwest since late April.
“Over the last six weeks, the conduct of hostilities has resulted in more than 230 civilian deaths, including 69 women and 81 children. Hundreds more have been injured,” Lowcock said, adding that an estimated 330,000 have been forced to flee their homes and move toward Turkey since early last month.
“Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure need to stop and they need to stop immediately,” Lowcock said.