01:07 GMT +318 November 2018
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    Smoke raises in the Syrian village of Kafr Ain in the southern countryside of Idlib province after an airstrike on September 7, 2018

    UN Chief: Idlib Must Not Be Transformed Into a 'Bloodbath'

    © AFP 2018 / Anas AL-DYAB
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    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Tuesday at UN headquarters that an all-out assault on Idlib "would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict."

    Antonio Guterres also appealed Tuesday to Russia, Iran and Turkey to "spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians" in Syria's Idlib and said it was "absolutely essential" a full-scale battle was avoided.

    In late August, Russia warned that terrorists operating in Idlib were staging a false-flag chemical attack set to provoke Western states' intervention. On Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that Washington, London and Paris would give a "strong and united" response in case of chemical weapons' use by the Syrian government.

    Antonio Guterres said that the Syrian ceasefire guarantors, Russia, Iran and Turkey, should continue working in the Astana format to prevent escalation of the situation in Idlib.

    "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 because Idlib is such a mess that, without a strong commitment of all these parties, we could be moving into a situation that would lead to the kind of massive battle that would have unpredictable consequences," Guterres said at a UN stakeout, answering a question on whether there was still need to continue efforts in the Astana format.

    The presence of terrorist groups in the Idlib de-escalation zone remains a pressing issue, while Damascus has managed to eliminate militants from most of its country's territories following years of armed conflict.

    Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said during a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday that UNSC member states should not confuse anti-terrorist operations with armed involvement. The Russian envoy also said the threats by Western countries against Syria’s sovereignty continue and they are no longer linked only to a possible chemical attack.

    READ MORE: Staged Filming of Mock 'Chemical Attacks' Has Begun in Idlib

    Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantors of the ceasefire regime in Syria. The leadership of the three countries is constantly engaged in dialogue on the situation in Syria. Most recently, on September 7, a trilateral summit, uniting the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran, was held in Tehran, during which the three leaders called on the militants operating in Idlib to join the nationwide truce regime.

    The Idlib province is one of Syria's de-escalation zones and a remaining stronghold of terrorist insurgency in the country. Under ceasefire agreement, brokered between Syrian government troops and armed opposition, military activities are prohibited in the area, but the ceasefire guarantors, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, repeatedly record truce violations.

    Meanwhile, the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation said earlier in the day that the filming of a staged provocation with the alleged use of chemical weapons had begun in Idlib.

    READ MORE: US Not Going to Cooperate With Russia on Idlib

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    terrorists, assault, warning, UN, Antonio Guterres, Idlib, Syria
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