After Assad attack, NATO voices solidarity with Turkey

Allies condemn continued indiscriminate airstrikes by Assad regime and Russia in Idlib, Syria, says NATO chief
Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Gozde Bayar – February 28, 2020

“The NATO allies offer the deepest condolences for the death of Turkish soldiers in [the] 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.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians in Idlib under a 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 the regime and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

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.

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