Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks to the media after attending a Security Council meeting on September 6, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — With most of the United Nations Security Council cautioning Russia and Iran of backing the Syrian regime's imminent assault on Idlib, Russia's top diplomat to the UN hinted that Washington wants chaos in the northwestern governorate.
"This [Idlib] is their [the United States and its allies] hope in a way. Imagine tomorrow is under Idlib control, what is left? The illegitimate US presence in the northeast, that is it," Vassily Nebenzya, the Russian Ambassador to the UN, told Rudaw on Tuesday in New York.
US counterpart Nikki Haley told the Security Council that the aim of the Idlib operation is "a bloody military conquest."
"The world will hold them responsible," she added, referring to permanent UNSC member Russia.
Nearly 3 million people are in Idlib with an estimated 10,000 Al Qaeda-linked fighters.
The United States has no presence in northwest Syria and favors a UN solution to the conflict with elections to decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad. Its presence is limited to supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria against ISIS, but strategic NATO ally Turkey has continued to back the National Front for the Liberation, an opposition group.
Haley, who holds the revolving Security Council presidency for September, warned that "the consequences will be dire" if the operation goes ahead.
Turkey favored a ceasefire for Syria in tripartite meetings with Russia and Iran last week.
The United Nations and Turkey have warned of humanitarian risks and massive displacement that could affect the West if the assault goes ahead.
"There is no doubt that an all-out military operation would result in a major humanitarian catastrophe," Turkish Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told the Security Council.
He warned Russian and Syrian bombings will cause a "massive wave of refugees and tremendous security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Syria and its backers that Idlib "must not be transformed into a bloodbath."
"This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict," said Guterres.
Some 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it began in 2011. More than half of all Syrians have been displaced at one time or another.