Pompeo backs Turkey on troops' deaths by Syria regime
U.S. Secretary of State on Feb. 4 offered condolences for Turkish troops killed by Syrian regime shelling in Idlib and reiterated Washington's support amid clashes with regime forces.
Mike Pompeo called the attack on Turkish observation posts by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad regime a "grave escalation."
"We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey in the aftermath of the attack, which resulted in the death of multiple Turkish personnel serving at an observation post used for coordination and de-escalation, and fully support Turkey's justified self-defense actions in response,” he said in a statement. "We send our condolences to the Government of Turkey on their deaths.”
Syrian regime shelling Monday left eight Turkish soldiers dead and several others wounded, according to defense ministry. In retaliation, Turkey struck more than 50 targets and killed 76 Syrian soldiers.
The top U.S. diplomat reiterated that Washington condemned assaults on Idlib residents by Assad and its allies.
"Brutal actions by the Assad regime, Russia, the Iranian regime, and Hizballah are directly preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria," said Pompeo, as he called for an end to the attacks, access for humanitarian aid and peace in line with UNSCR 2254 -- a 2015 UN Security Council resolution that called for a cease-fire in Syria and a political settlement of the conflict.
"The United States will do all in its powers to block any reintegration of the Assad regime into the international community until it complies with all provisions of UNSCR 2254, including a nationwide ceasefire that incorporates Idlib," he concluded.
Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
It is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.
Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire – including a fresh cease-fire Jan. 12 – launching frequent attacks inside the zone and killing at least 1,300 civilians since the agreement.
Turkey has complained of the carnage and continued attacks and urged Russia to rein in its ally Assad to stop the bloodshed.