Syria: UN chief says 'humanitarian nightmare' must end

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The "man-made humanitarian nightmare" in Syria's Idlib province must end now, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday.

Mr Guterres stopped short of offering any specific plan for curbing the bloodshed in the final rebel holdout.

Russian air strikes in the northwestern province are bolstering a Syrian government offensive that has forced nearly one million civilians to flee - the biggest wave of displacement of the nine-year conflict.

"This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering people of Syria must stop. It must stop now," Mr Guterres told reporters.

"The message is clear: There is no military solution for the Syrian crisis. The only possible solution remains political."

Displaced Syrians wait in a queue as an NGO delivers bread as they wait to receive aid in a stadium which has been turned into a makeshift shelter, Idlib, Syria. Getty

Displaced Syrians sit on the tribunes of a stadium which has been turned into a makeshift refugee shelter in Idlib, Syria. Getty

Displaced Syrians wait in front of their tents at the basement of a stadiums tribunes as it is turned into a makeshift refugee shelter in Idlib, Syria. Getty

A displaced Syrian girl carries a bag of bread in a stadium which has been turned into a makeshift refugee shelter in Idlib, Syria. Getty

Internally displaced people stand outside tents at a makeshift camp in Azaz, Syria. Reuters

A displaced Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck on the way to Deir al-Ballut camp in Afrin's countryside along the border with Turkey. AFP

A view of Turkish soldiers and millitary armored vehicles at the Ad Dana district of north-east Idlib, Syria. EPA

People drive motorcycles at the Turmanin district of north-east Idlib, Syria. EPA

Displaced Syrians pass through the village of Deir al-Ballut in Afrin's countryside along the border with Turkey. AFP

An aerial view taken on February 19, 2020 shows destroyed buildings in the Syrian town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib/ AFP

A Syrian man walks past damaged buildings in the town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib. AFP

A Syrian man walks past damaged buildings in the town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib. AFP

A truck rides past destroyed buildings in the town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib. AFP

Displaced Syrians arrive to Deir al-Ballut camp in Afrin's countryside, along the border with Turkey. AFP

Mr Guterres recalled that he had repeatedly called for an "immediate ceasefire" in Idlib, and urged all parties to avoid any escalation in the fighting.

"It is crucial to break the vicious circle of violence and suffering," he said.

Since December 1, around 900,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, including more than 500,000 children, according to the United Nations.

"An estimated 2.8 million people in northwest Syria require humanitarian assistance," Mr Guterres said, launching an appeal for an additional $500 million (Dh1.8 billion) in donations to help the displaced over the next six months.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to halt the Syrian regime's violence in Idlib.

"The president during the call stressed that the regime should be restrained in Idlib and that the humanitarian crisis must be stopped," the Turkish presidency said in a statement after the two leaders spoke by phone.

Updated: February 21, 2020 11:12 PM

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