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UN Chief urges all parties to protect civilians in Idlib

NEW YORK, Sept 12 (KUNA) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed to all parties concerned directly or indirectly in Syria, especially the three guarantors of the Astana process, to spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians, preserve basic services such as hospitals and ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.
Guterres stressed to reporters on Tuesday night the need to avoid a comprehensive battle in Idlib, saying that this would lead to an unprecedented humanitarian nightmare in the bloody Syrian conflict.
 About half of the 2.9 million people in Idlib, including about one million children, came to seek safe haven after the fighting forced them to flee elsewhere in the country and nowhere else for them to go, he said.
 The current situation in Idlib is unsustainable and the existence of terrorist groups can not be tolerated, but fighting terrorism does not exempt the warring parties from their basic obligations under international law, Guterres said.
 He stressed the need not to use chemical weapons, pointing out that it could lead the situation to go out of control and would inflict direct human casualties.
 The Secretary-General noted that all these factors underline the urgent need for greater progress in the Geneva process, in particular the establishment of a constitutional commission as part of the overall political package, stressing that the solution must be political, not military, and that the responsibility rests with all.
 "My Special Envoy will continue his efforts around the clock. We have a collective responsibility to protect those who have already suffered so much," he said.(end).