UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a press conference in Moscow on April 20, 2018. (YURI KADOBNOV / AFP)
GENEVA — UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Thursday called the Syrian war parties to facilitate a credible humanitarian corridor to allow civilians from the Idlib area to temporarily evacuate to safer places.
The UN Envoy for Syria told reporters that currently, an extremely high concentration of foreign fighters and in particular the highest number of al-Nusra, al-Qaeda fighters are now in the area
Speaking to a group of journalists, the UN Envoy also requested the parties to stop military escalation and give more time for discussions aiming to avoid worse-case scenario.
"You can understand that when there is a perfect storm coming up in front of our eye, potentially, we need to address first things first," he said.
His remarks came after reports of a "false flag" chemical weapon attack allegedly staged by the Syrian troops to provoke military response from one or all of the allies; Britain, France and the United States.
Mentioning deep concern about "this chilling military potential escalation" in the area of Idlib and its potential implications, de Mistura stressed that "the lives of 2.9 million people are at stake and international mutually threatening messages and warnings and counter-warnings have taken place in the last few days."
According to the UN Envoy, of the 2.9 million people in Idlib, some 1.4 million have already been displaced at least once and about 2.1 million are already in need for humanitarian aid, before what they fear would be the battle for Idlib.
In the past, he said, every time when there was a crisis there would be places many could opt to go, but as the last and the largest de-escalation area announced in Astana, people in Idlib are now "packed" in a relatively small area.
"There is no other Idlib, where can they go? Where anyone can go? " de Mistura asked.
The UN Envoy said that he himself is prepared to "personally and physically" get involved to ensure such a temporary corridor would be feasible and guaranteed for the people so they can then return to their own places untouched once this is over.
Earlier in 2016 during the fighting and humanitarian crisis in Syria's Aleppo, the UN Envoy provided a similar offer but was refused.
"It would be a tragic irony if at almost the end of what we consider at the moment in front of our eyes, a territorial war inside Syria, we would be witnessing the most horrific tragedy to the largest number of civilians," he added.
The UN Envoy for Syria told reporters that currently, an extremely high concentration of foreign fighters and in particular the highest number of al-Nusra, al-Qaeda fighters are now in the area.
"The estimates of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, whatever name they want to call themselves, is more or less around 10,000 of them, plus families," he said.
On the issue of avoiding the potential use of chemical weapons, de Mistura said that he was definitely looking at it with great concern or any type of weaponised chlorine.
"We need to see countries united on fighting terrorists, protect civilians, and consider unacceptable any use or misuse of chemical weapons," he stressed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has clearly reminded everyone that the systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas may amount to war crimes, de Mistura said.
Earlier on Wednesday, UN chief also expressed deep concern that a full scale military assault in Syria's Idlib province risks a humanitarian catastrophe and urged all parties to preserve the last de-escalation zone in the war-torn country.