In early December, the Assad regime, along with Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces, launched a brutal military campaign against the people of Idlib -- the last opposition-held stronghold in Syria. This offensive precipitated the largest and fastest single wave of Syrian internal displacement, nearly one million, since the start of the conflict.
This attack on Idlib’s 3 million people, most of them women and children, is an attempt by Russia, one of the belligerent parties in the Syrian conflict, to gain a strategic advantage in the region, said U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield during a March 10th press conference. This mass uprooting of civilians in Idlib is a deliberate Russian maneuver to force displaced Syrians from their homes towards the Turkish border, in an attempt to “compel Turkey to take decisions favorable to Russian ambitions to both retake the Idlib zone for the [Syrian] regime and effect, through the retaking of Idlib, an end to the ability of the international community to see either the full implementation of Resolution 2254 or a situation in which there is any stand made against Russian aggression.”
In response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in northwest Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft announced in early March that the United States will provide $108 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria. However, she said, “Humanitarian aid is only a response [to the crisis]. The real answer is an immediate cease-fire, a durable cease-fire.”
Indeed, the United States is encouraged by the Turkish-Russian ceasefire in Idlib, which took effect on March 6. We hope it will help deescalate a very dangerous situation and relieve the dire humanitarian crisis precipitated by attacks on civilians by Russians, Syrians, and their allies.
“It is imperative that everything possible be done at this moment to stabilize, in an enduring fashion, the ceasefire agreed to in Moscow on March 5th, to put an end to territorial incursions. There will be no safe zone, no secure zone, if there is not an enduring ceasefire,” said Ambassador Satterfield.
Ambassador Satterfield continued “The sad record of Syria over the course of the past two years has been ceasefires with Russian guarantees have not been ceasefires; they are temporary, transactional halts until Russia is prepared to renew the campaign,” he said.
“That must not be the case in Idlib.”