Syrian refugees flee Idlib, packed into the back of a cart | Photo: Reuters/K.Ashawi
Syrian refugees flee Idlib, packed into the back of a cart | Photo: Reuters/K.Ashawi

The EU has called for an end to the Russian-backed Syrian government military offensive in the rebel-held city of Idlib. Almost one million people have been displaced in "horrendous conditions" in the area.

The European Union on Friday condemned Syrian government attacks on the city of Idlib, warning that a humanitarian disaster was underway.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's Russian-backed offensive on Idlib, the country's last rebel enclave, is an attempt to end the nine-year conflict.

"The renewed military offensive in Idlib by the Syrian regime and its backers, causing enormous human suffering, is unacceptable," said the EU Council in a statement. The council represents the EU's 27 member states.

Read more: Opinion: Declaration of moral bankruptcy in Idlib

The statement went on to urge all sides to "fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and to allow unimpeded and direct humanitarian access to all those in need."

Merkel and Macron seek meeting to end conflict

The statement was released after the EU budget summit began on Thursday. As he arrived for the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron also roundly decried the humanitarian crisis in Idlib.

"For weeks, one of the worst humanitarian dramas has been unfolding," Macron said. Along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he has also urged a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following a phone call between Merkel, Macron and Putin.

Read more: 'I feel totally alone': Life under siege in Idlib

"I wish to condemn in the strongest terms the military attacks carried out for several weeks by Bashar Assad's regime against the civilian population of Idlib," Macron added.

Aid pledges

The EU also vowed to deliver new aid to civilians in Idlib. The military offensive in Idlib has led to many reported deaths in the battle between Turkish-backed insurgents and Russian-backed government forces.

The offensive has led to mass displacement, with the UN estimating 900,000 people have been displaced in "horrendous conditions" since December 1. Approximately 500,000 are children.

It is estimated to be the biggest refugee exodus since World War II.

ed/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)

First published: February 21, 2020

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