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Top UN Official Cautiously Optimistic Idlib Will Remain Quiet


FILE - United Nations Syria envoy's Special Adviser Jan Egeland attends a briefing after the meeting of the humanitarian task force on Syria in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 1, 2018.

A top U.N. humanitarian official calls himself cautiously optimistic that the quiet in Syria's Idlib province will continue to hold.

"The worst-case scenario is still horrific war across enormous areas," Jan Egeland said in Geneva on Thursday. "But the way that Russia and Turkey tell us of their plans ... makes me a cautious optimist. I don't see the big war coming any time soon to Idlib."

Both Russia — which backs the Syrian regime — and Turkey — which supports the rebels who still control Idlib — have said they will do all they can to avoid military action as long as their positions are left alone.

Despite Egeland's optimism, he said a lot still depends on the rebel forces and those the U.N. calls terrorists who are hunkered down inside Idlib.

"There are many signs bad things will happen unless there are further breakthroughs in the negotiations with the numerous armed groups inside," he told reporters.

In this Sept. 20, 2018 photo, motor cycles ride past buildings destroyed during the fighting in the northern town of Ariha, in Idlib province, Syria. Ariha is one of five main towns in Idlib province and the last place to fall to rebel control in 2015.
In this Sept. 20, 2018 photo, motor cycles ride past buildings destroyed during the fighting in the northern town of Ariha, in Idlib province, Syria. Ariha is one of five main towns in Idlib province and the last place to fall to rebel control in 2015.

Idlib province, which borders Turkey, is the last major rebel-held area in Syria.

A Syrian military strike seemed imminent in September before a Russian-Turkish plan set up demilitarized zones, bringing a relative calm.

As many as 3 million civilians are in Idlib. The U.N. says a Syrian attack would lead to a bloodbath and a humanitarian catastrophe.

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