Idlib deal could save three million ‘from catastrophe’ – UN chief

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday welcomed the agreement reached between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Vladimir Putin of Russia earlier this week, to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib.

In a statement to journalists in New York, Guterres appealed to “all the parties” to implement the agreement, and highlighted the need to ensure the protection of civilians and humanitarian access.

“If properly implemented, this could save three million civilians – including one million children – from catastrophe,” he said.

International humanitarian law must also be respected and everyone involved in the more than seven-year conflict should work “urgently for greater progress” in the Geneva process to find a political solution to the situation.

Guterres’s comments followed a meeting earlier Thursday of the Humanitarian Access Task Force on Syria, led by Senior Adviser to the UN Jan Egeland.

Echoing the UN chief’s comments, Egeland said in Geneva that the deal between Russia and Turkey was a welcome development, before appealing to armed militants there not to fight “to the last civilian”.

The agreement between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin reportedly creates a 15-20-kilometre-wide de-escalation zone in Idlib to be patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops.

The Special Advisor to the UN highlighted the dangers of further violence in Syria’s last opposition-held area, where half of Idlib’s population of nearly three million are internally-displaced civilians and a million are children.

Some 10,000 fighters in Idlib are classified as terrorists by the UN.

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