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Guterres on Idlib, Syria: “Young Children Are Freezing to Death… Stop now!”

United Nations Secretary General's message for Russia and Turkey: "This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering people of Syria must stop."

by Antonio Guterres

Full Remarks [as delivered]

We are all aware of the unfolding crisis in northwest Syria and the terrible human toll on civilians.

Nearly 900,000 people – the vast majority women and children – have fled in the latest fighting under the most tragic circumstances. Hundreds have been killed. Many have been uprooted multiple times. Young children are freezing to death.

The fighting is now advancing into areas with the highest concentrations of people – including the displaced – and threatening to strangle humanitarian lifelines.

International humanitarian law and the protection of civilians have been systematically ignored.

As the space for safety shrinks further – the potential for human suffering grows worse.

An estimated 2.8 million people in northwest Syria require humanitarian assistance.

Earlier this month we thought we would need to reach 800,000 people displaced by the recent and ongoing violence.

Now, something much greater is required.

We are revising our plans and issuing an urgent appeal to donors for an additional $500 million to cover the needs of the newly displaced people over the next six months.

Beyond the appalling humanitarian crisis, developments on the ground are making matters more and more dangerous.

The Idlib de-escalation zone was established in 2017 – and the subject of a further memorandum between the Russian Federation and Turkey in September 2018, the Sochi Memorandum.

However, by late February 2019 the arrangement began to falter, despite several ceasefire renewals in the subsequent months, most recently on 12 January.

For almost a year we have seen a series of Syrian government ground offensives supported by Russian airstrikes. This month there have been repeated deadly clashes between Turkish and Syrian Government forces.

All of this means that in addition to a dramatic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, we face now the risk of an ever-more serious confrontation with increasingly unpredictable consequences.

It is crucial to break the vicious circle of violence and suffering.

I have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib to end the humanitarian catastrophe and now also to avoid an uncontrollable escalation.

I have conveyed this message publicly and directly to key actors.

In addition, my Special Envoy for Syria, as well as the Emergency Relief Coordinator, have repeatedly briefed the Security Council – including as recently as two days ago. At my direction, my Special Envoy has also been in close and constant communication with all involved.

The message is clear: There is no military solution to the Syria crisis. The only possible solution remains political.

This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering people of Syria must stop. It must stop now!

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