By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on Russia and Turkey to stabilize Syria’s Idlib province as the Bashar al-Assad regime launched another offensive.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.
But the Syrian regime and its allies have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.
"I appeal in particular to the Astana guarantors -- and to the Russian Federation and Turkey, especially, as the signatories of the September 2018 Memorandum of Understanding on Idlib -- to stabilize the situation without delay," Guterres told reporters at the UN.
He stressed that "there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis".
“It was clear at the start and remains clear more than eight years later that the solution must be political.”
The Turkish Armed Forces set up 12 observation posts in Idlib’s de-escalation zone in May 2018 following the ninth round of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan with Russia and Iran. Moscow has 10 observation posts.
The Assad regime has ignored the agreements and constantly launches strikes in the zone.
Guterres expressed deep concern over the situation in Idlib, saying "civilians are paying a horrific price".
He said that even in the fight against terrorism, there needs to be full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
Last month, Ursula Mueller, Guterres' top humanitarian affairs official, lambasted the Security Council for a history of inaction in Syria, questioning what it will do to prevent another catastrophe, this time in Idlib.
"Can't this council take any concrete action when attacks on schools and hospitals have become a war tactic that no longer sparks outrage?" Mueller said.
"Is there nothing to be said or done when indiscriminate barrel bombs are dropped in civilian areas?
“Millions of battered and beleaguered children, women and men cannot wait for another Geneva round to succeed. They need protection -- and your action -- now."