Russia, Iran and Turkey told a meeting of the Syria humanitarian taskforce on Thursday that they would do their utmost to avoid a battle that would threaten millions of civilians in rebel-held Idlib, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said, according to Reuters.
He estimated that there were 4 million or more people in the potential battleground in northwest Syria and he hoped diplomats and military envoys could reach a deal to avoid a "bloodbath". But he said the U.N. was making preparations for a battle and would ask Turkey to keep its borders open to allow civilians to flee if the need arose.
Meanwhile, Syrian activists say government military helicopters have dropped leaflets over parts of the northwestern rebel-held province of Idlib, urging residents to reconcile with the government.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published a copy of the leaflets. They say the Syrian war "is close to an end," that it's time to stop the bloodletting and that residents should join reconciliation "as our people did in other parts of Syria."
Under intense Russian and Syrian military pressure, rebels in other parts of Syria have gradually surrendered.
Activists say simultaneously as the helicopters dropped leaflets on Thursday, warplanes pounded several rebel-held areas elsewhere in Idlib, which has become home to tens of thousands of internally displaced people.