UN chief alarmed by tragic suffering in northwest Syria

Antonio Guterres calls for immediate ceasefire as humanitarian situation deteriorates

Servet Günerigök   | 19.02.2020
UN chief alarmed by tragic suffering in northwest Syria


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced alarm Tuesday over the humanitarian situation in northwest Syria, where an ongoing offensive has displaced nearly 900,000 civilians since December. 

Guterres is "alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in northwest Syria and the tragic suffering of civilians," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The UN chief called for an immediate ceasefire amid clashes between opposition groups and Syrian regime forces backed by Russia and Iran.

"International humanitarian law must be upheld. There is no military solution," said Dujarric, adding a "credible and inclusive UN-facilitated political solution" would be the only path to stability.

Dujarric said the hostilities are approaching densely populated areas and Syrians are "on the move in freezing temperatures in search of safety, which has become ever more difficult."

Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian affairs chief, said Monday that "indiscriminate" violence in the region had reached "a horrifying new level" since the regime offensive began in December and he demanded the Security Council to take action to avoid a catastrophe of historical proportions.

"The biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century will only be avoided if Security Council members, and those with influence, overcome individual interests and put a collective stake in humanity first. The only option is a ceasefire," he said.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, however, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces, flouting the 2018 ceasefire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

The Syrian regime's advances have sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees.

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