Humanitarian disaster in Idlib must be avoided

Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström

The conflict in Syria is one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of our time. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and more than half of the country’s population has been forced to flee since the start of the conflict in 2011. Time and again, the Syrian regime has shown that it is prepared to go to any lengths to force the population into submission, without any respect for human life and suffering.

This year, we have seen how the de-escalation areas, which were agreed upon by the Astana guarantors (Iran, Russia and Turkey) have been recaptured one at a time by the regime and its allies, with enormous humanitarian consequences as a result. Much now indicates that the regime is preparing a large scale military offensive against Idlib, the last remaining de-escalation area. 

The Astana guarantors have failed to deliver on their promise – a de-escalation of the violence in Syria. It is high time they lived up to their commitments. At their meeting in Tehran on Friday, they must find a way to avoid further escalation.

As the UN Secretary-General stated, protection of civilians in Syria must now be given priority and a peaceful solution must be reached. The UN and the Security Council must take preventive action to avoid a new humanitarian disaster in Syria. Civilians must be protected from the effects of war, in accordance with the parties’ obligations under the rules of international humanitarian law. 

Sweden and Kuwait share the responsibility as co-penholders in the UNSC for the humanitarian situation in Syria. Together, we are now doing everything in our power to try to protect the estimated 3 million people in Idlib. We know from previous experience that this is a very difficult task, but we are prepared to take our responsibility.

Margot Wallström
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden