The UN’s Syria envoy on Wednesday urged the presidents of Russia and Turkey to find an “immediate diplomatic solution” to the conflict in northwestern Syria, where both powers are militarily active.
“I am sure you all join me in urging them to find an immediate diplomatic solution that could spare civilians further suffering... and create more conducive conditions for a political process”, UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who backs some rebel groups in Syria’s Idlib province - and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a firm supporter of the Syrian regime, are due to meet in Moscow on Thursday.
Since December, the Syrian government has led a deadly military campaign against rebels in Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in the country’s northwest after nearly nine years of civil war.
Tensions have soared further since Ankara launched its own offensive days ago against the Syrian regime, after more than 50 Turkish soldiers were killed in Idlib province in recent weeks.
Pedersen called the direct clashes between Syrian regime and Turkish forces “a worrying change in the nature of the conflict.”
Despite being on opposite sides of the war, Ankara and Moscow have kept lines of negotiation open.
Erdogan has said he hopes a ceasefire will be “swiftly established” when the two meet.
Pedersen warned that “with five international armies active inside Syria, the dangers of wider international conflagration remain.”
A “meaningful political process” is needed to avoid “a bleak and uncertain future, with dire regional consequences”, Pedersen added.
“The path out of war to peace is plainly very difficult. There is very little trust and confidence to move forward, and not enough political will to do so,” he said.
Close to one million people have been displaced by the regime offensive.