UN envoy warns of ‘imminent danger’ of escalation in Syria

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The UN envoy to Syria said Wednesday that the country was on the brink of worsening violence after an exchange of threats between key players Turkey and Russia.

Syrian aid workers have called for an urgent ceasefire and international help for nearly a million people fleeing the regime’s onslaught in northwestern Idlib province -- the biggest wave of displaced civilians in the nine-year conflict.

“I cannot report any progress in ending the current violence in the northwest or in reconvening the political process,” Geir Pedersen told the UN Security Council.

“Russian and Turkish delegations have met intensively in recent days ... but no understanding has yet emerged,” he said.

“To the contrary, public statements from different quarters, Syrian and international, suggest an imminent danger of further escalation.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Wednesday warned that Turkey would launch an offensive into Syria unless Damascus pulled its forces back by the end of the month.

“We are counting down, we are making our final warnings,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

He called for Syrian forces to retreat behind Turkey’s military posts in Idlib, which were set up under a 2018 deal with Russia designed to hold off a regime advance.

Russia quickly responded to Erdogan’s threat, warning that any operation against Syrian forces would be “the worst scenario.”

Turkey, supporter of some opposition groups in Idlib, has been pushing for a renewed ceasefire in talks with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime.

The UN said 900,000 people had been displaced in “horrendous conditions” since December 1, more than 500,000 of them children.

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