UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 (APP):Aid access to embattled people in Syria’s south-west may soon improve following recent military gains by the Syrian government, but the war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib, the head of the UN’s Humanitarian Task Force said Thursday.
Speaking in Geneva, Jan Egeland confirmed that fighting in the south-west region had largely ended and that Syria’s last remaining sieges ” in the Shia towns of Foah and Kefraya â€” have also been lifted.
The potentially positive development means that there should be â€œno need to negotiateâ€ with the Government of Syria for aid convoy access, the UN Special Adviser said.
Progress should also be quicker because the lorries will no longer have to cross active front lines, he explained.
“Hopefully, we are seeing the beginning of the end to the big war,â€ he said, adding that â€œthere are signsâ€ the UN and humanitarian partners would finally get access to civilians that they have been trying to reach â€œfor a very long time, and that some of the cruel practices of the war are coming to an endâ€.
However, the “tremendous worry” is that the conflict will move to Idlib province and other non-government-controlled areas in Syria’s north-west, Egeland cautioned.
â€œThis area is screaming for diplomatic solutions,â€ he said. â€œIt is yearning for the best diplomats, the best military negotiators to sit down between each other and come to agreements, knowing that there wouldnâ€™t be another Idlib to be evacuated to.â€
Idlib and other areas, including Afrin and Azaz, are home to some 4 million people, including 3 million women and children, according to Egeland, who is also Special Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria.
Around 1.4 million of that number have fled from previous conflict hotspots including Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and the south-west governorates of Deraâ€™a, Sweida and Quneitra.
â€œA small minorityâ€ of those in Idlib â€œwould be seen as terroristsâ€, Egeland added, but this was â€œno excuse for sending the warâ€ to women and children.
Insisting that â€œthis is no tsunamiâ€ but rather a â€œman-made crisis from A to Zâ€, Egeland appealed to the international community to support the â€œhumanitarian lifelineâ€ which helps some 2 million people every month.
â€œThat lifeline has to be expanded because there will be new people in need,â€ he said. â€œThere is some fighting happening continuously and finally there has to be protection of civilians, including hospitals and others.â€
In a bid to prevent further bloodshed after more than seven years of conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands and lives and forced millions to flee, Egeland said that he hoped that countries with influence on the belligerents will be encouraged to reach a political settlement that would spare Idlib.
He singled out the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran as having â€œbig influenceâ€ in Idlib, as well as Western countries and those Gulf countries who also wield influence with armed opposition groups.
â€œWe will push [them] â€¦to say: learn from Eastern Ghouta, learn from Aleppo, learn from Ar-Raqqa,â€ Egeland said. â€œThere must be talks, there must be agreements, this war must end not in a bloodbath, but by agreements.â€