The conflict in Syria has already caused unspeakable suffering to millions of people forced to live under siege or to leave their country. We are deeply concerned about the escalating military action by the Syrian regime and Russia in north-west Syria, with potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians.
A full-scale military offensive in Idlib would put at risk the lives of more than three million civilians, including one million children, living in the region. It might also lead to renewed mass displacement, including of civilians already displaced because of the regime’s brutal sieges and military operations. Any use of chemical weapons would be totally unacceptable. It is prohibited by international law and could have devastating human and humanitarian consequences. Moreover, a full-scale military operation in the Idlib province would escalate an already dangerous conflict in a volatile region.
Idlib is the last remaining de-escalation zone in Syria that the Astana guarantors committed to safeguard. We express our support for the urgent diplomatic efforts being made to this end by Turkey and the UN. In view of the meeting of the Astana Guarantors in Tehran tomorrow, we call on the guarantors, in particularly Russia and Iran, to uphold the ceasefire and de-escalation arrangements they have previously agreed, including protecting civilians as a matter of priority. We call on the Syrian regime, which has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population, and on all other involved parties, to exercise restraint and take all necessary measures to protect civilian lives and civilian infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, as well as allow and facilitate unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. All those perpetrating violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.
We continue to support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to reach an inclusive credible and sustainable political solution in Syria. Only a UN-led political process can bring to a solution to the conflict that respects the freedom and the dignity of all Syrian people in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué.
Tomorrow we - the EU members of the Security Council - will co-host an Arria-formula meeting with the Syrian opposition to give them a platform and a voice in the UN and share their perspectives on how to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib. This meeting will take place in Conference Room 7 and is open to the media.