UN Syria envoy 'ready to go to Idlib' to help civilians leave

The UN's Syria peace envoy offered Thursday (August 30th) to travel to Idlib to help ensure civilians can leave through a humanitarian corridor amid fears of an imminent government offensive to retake the last major region controlled by opposition fighters, AFP reported.

"I am once again prepared... personally and physically to get involved myself... to ensure such a temporary corridor would be feasible and guaranteed for the people so that they can then return to their own places once this is over," Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.

His comments came amid fears the Syrian government, backed by Russia, is mobilising for a military offensive to retake Idlib.

Idlib, which borders Turkey, is home to nearly three million people, up to half of whom are opposition fighters and civilians transferred en masse from other territory that has fallen to Syrian troops after intense assaults.

A major military operation in Idlib would pose a particular humanitarian nightmare because there is no opposition territory left in Syria where people could be evacuated to.

"There is no other Idlib," de Mistura said, stressing the need to ensure civilians can evacuate to nearby areas under government control, with guarantees their rights will be respected once they get there.

"It would be a tragic irony frankly if at almost the end of... a territorial war inside Syria, we would be witnessing the most horrific tragedy to the largest number of civilians," he said.

"It would be quite tragic at this stage, having seen how difficult the seven years (of Syria's war) have been."

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011.

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