UN, September 12. /TASS/. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that Syrian reconciliation efforts within the framework of the Astana process should continue.
When asked to comment on statements that the Astana process does not work, the UN head replied: "I think it is absolutely essential [for] Russia, Iran, and Turkey, not to mention other countries directly or indirectly involved in this situation, to really come together at the present moment more than ever."
"It is absolutely essential to avoid a full-scale battle in Idlib. This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare," he continued. "Idlib is the last so-called "de-escalation zone" in Syria. It must not be transformed into a blood bath."
"If you look at the Tehran Communique, it is said that it is necessary to fight terrorism, but it is necessary to protect civilians. What we want is exactly those commitments to be maintained in practical terms," Guterres added.
At the same time, the UN Secretary General evaded a question on whether a military operation in Idlib should be viewed as a military crime.
"I think what is important at the present moment is not to classify what has not yet happened; it’s to make sure that it doesn’t happen. Which means it is important that those - especially the three guarantors of the Astana process - find a way in which it is possible to isolate terrorist groups and it is possible to create a situation in which civilians will not be the price paid to solve the problem of Idlib," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, US Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council that the Astana process "has failed." "It has failed to stop the violence or to promote a political solution," she added.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, replied that certain states have been trying to "drive a wedge" between the guarantor nations of the Astana process.
"My colleague said that Astana had failed," he went on. "Maybe, this is what you would like to see, but let me disappoint you: the Astana process continues, and, I assure you, it will help us to achieve some results in the future."
Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms can move together with their families. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib currently hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).
Washington says that the Syrian government forces may carry out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib and warned that such actions will have serious consequences. Moscow believes that these statements point to preparations for a new attack on Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said, in turn, that militants were making preparations together with British intelligence services to stage a chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province and blame it on the Syrian government.
During the third summit of Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations - Russia, Iran and Turkey - which took place on September 7, the sides have approved a package of measures for further settlement in Syria, with special emphasis placed on the situation in Idlib. In their final joint statement, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey reaffirmed their determination to continue cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate terrorism in Syria and stabilize the situation in the country. Vladimir Putin told reporters after the meeting that "our common absolute priority is the total elimination of terrorists in Syria.".