US, Turkey re-evaluate situation in Idlib

US, Turkey re-evaluate situation in Idlib

US, Turkey re-evaluate situation in Idlib

U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey arrives in Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 11, 2020. (AA Photo)

The U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement and the fight against ISIL, James Jeffrey, had talks in Ankara amid straining ties with Russia over the Idlib escalation.

Speaking to reporters at Ankara's Esenboğa International Airport, James Jeffrey said Turkey, as a NATO ally, encountered a great threat in Idlib, northwestern Syria, coming from the Assad regime and Russia.

“Today in Idlib, Turkey, our ally, faces a threat. This threat comes from the government of Russia and Assad. You have martyrs on the field,” Jeffrey told reporters when he arrived in Turkey late Feb. 11.

Jeffrey said he came to Ankara to re-evaluate the situation with the Turkish government, adding that the U.S. will give as much as possible support to Turkey.

Accompanying Jeffrey, the ambassador's senior advisor Rich Outzen said the U.S. "strongly condemned the attacks of the Damascus regime."

Stressing the importance of solidarity, Outzen said his country will continue to be in close contact with Turkey.

During the talks at the Foreign Ministry, Jeffrey conveyed condolences of the U.S. government for Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib in the regime attack and reiterated that the U.S., a NATO ally of Turkey, stands by Ankara, Foreign Ministry sources said on condition of anonymity.

Deputy Minister Ambassador Sedat Önal informed Jeffrey about the situation in Idlib and emphasized the importance Turkey attaches to the implementation of the agreements reached in the Astana process and the Sochi deal.

Other aspects of the Syrian problem, such as the humanitarian situation and the political process, were also discussed at the meeting and it was underlined that the international community should play an active role in these issues, sources said.

Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

“In Ankara, Ambassador Jeffrey will meet with senior Turkish officials to discuss the Assad regime’s Russian-backed destabilizing military offensive in #Idlib and how we can work together toward a political solution to the Syrian Conflict,” the U.S. Embassy in Turkey said on Twitter earlier.

“The destabilizing actions of Russia, the Iranian regime, Hizballah & the Assad regime are hindering the establishment of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria as called for an UNSCR 2254 & the safe return of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in northern Syria to their homes,” it added.

The embassy also called for “an immediate ceasefire and full access to the affected areas by humanitarian organizations to alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of thousands that have fled the incessant bombing.”

Kalın, Jeffrey discuss Syria

During his visit to Ankara, Jeffrey also held talks with Turkey's presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın. 

İbrahim Kalın and James Jeffrey met in the Turkish capital Ankara over the latest situation and developments in the region.

Targeting Turkish army's observation posts by the Assad regime in Idlib is unacceptable, Kalın and Jeffrey stressed.

During the meeting, Turkey's determination on protecting Turkish soldiers and civilians as part of Idlib deal was also underlined.

Top US diplomat stands by Turkey over deadly attack

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his condolences to Turkey following a deadly Syrian regime attack on Turkish forces.

"My condolences to the families of the soldiers killed in yesterday's attack in Idlib," Pompeo said on Twitter.

"The ongoing assaults by the Assad regime and Russia must stop. I've sent Jim Jeffrey to Ankara to coordinate steps to respond to this destabilizing attack. We stand by our NATO Ally #Turkey."

Turkey neutralizes 51 Assad regime military personnel

Ankara on Feb. 11 said that Turkish forces “neutralized” a total of 51 Assad regime military personnel in Idlib de-escalation zone.

According to a statement by the Defense Ministry, 51 regime personnel were “neutralized”, two tanks, an anti-aircraft gun and an ammunition depot were destroyed.

Turkish authorities often use the term "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.