The deal to avoid a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN says, stressing that the threat to civilians remains high.
“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the United Nations Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, tells reporters in Geneva.
Syrian government ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its three million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.
While briefing the taskforce about the pact today, Russian and Turkish envoys make clear they “are still working… on the details,” Egeland says.
He expresses hope the agreement is an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia has stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.
“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland adds. “We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”
The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.