After Assad attack, NATO voices solidarity with Turkey

NATO allies condemn continued indiscriminate airstrikes by Assad regime and Russia in Idlib, Syria, says NATO chief

All NATO member states expressed solidarity with Turkey in the wake of Thursday’s deadly Assad regime attack in Idlib, northwestern Syria that killed 33 Turkish soldiers and wounded dozens, said the alliance’s chief.

“The NATO allies offer the deepest condolences for the death of Turkish soldiers in last bombing in Idlib and express full solidarity with Turkey,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a Friday press conference after an emergency alliance meeting in Brussels.

The allies also “condemn the continued indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia in Idlib province,” said Stoltenberg, calling on them “to stop their offensive to respect international law and to back UN-led efforts for a peaceful solution.”

NATO has already provided political and practical support to Turkey and the allies are looking to make further contributions, he stressed.

“This dangerous situation must be deescalated to avoid further worsening of the horrendous humanitarian situation in the region, and to allow urgent humanitarian access for those trapped in Idlib. We urge an immediate return to the 2018 cease-fire,” he said.

He decried the situation in Idlib, south of the Turkish border, saying: “We have seen bombing of civilian targets, we have seen increased humanitarian suffering and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.”

The “allies will continue to follow developments on the South-eastern border of NATO very closely,” he concluded.

– Emergency meeting over embattled region

NATO convened an extraordinary meeting Friday on Turkey’s request in the wake of the deadly attack in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

– Erdogan, Putin agreed to meet face to face soon

In the same context, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in their phone call on Friday agreed to meet face to face soon, says Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun.

Meanwhile, the discussions between Turkish and Russian delegations on the situation in Idlib, Syria will continue on Friday afternoon in Ankara.

The third day of the third round of talks will start at 4 p.m. local time (1300GMT).

The Turkish side will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, according to diplomatic sources.

The Russian delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev.

Over the last two days, the delegations met in Ankara where the Turkish side urged its Russian counterparts to immediately establish a cease-fire in Idlib.

The first two rounds of the talks were held in Ankara and Moscow, respectively. But tensions since have escalated in the region.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping their pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

– The world should act on Syria crisis

Turkey’s presidential spokesman on Friday called on the international community to take measures to de-escalate tensions in Syria after dozens of Turkish soldiers were martyred in a late-night attack by the regime forces.

“The crisis in Idlib has crossed all limits. Therefore, the international community should put a stop to humanitarian crises in Idlib, Syria and take concrete steps,” Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred, and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

Extending his condolences to the families of the martyrs and wishing speedy recovery to the wounded, he said, Turkey had responded with ground and air strikes which hit more than 200 regime targets.