Radar tracks showed that Syrian and Russian forces were flying in formation during the attack that killed at least 36 Turkish soldiers in Syria's Idlib province on Feb. 27, Permanent Representative of Turkey Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu said on Friday. "Turkish forces were alone in that area. The logical conclusion of that is that they were deliberately targeted," he said, disputing the Russian narrative.
The U.N. Security Council will on Feb. 28 hold an emergency meeting on the latest developments in Syria. The meeting comes in the wake of the death of 33 Turkish troops in Idlib.
Turkish President Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Trump on Feb. 28 discussed developments in Syria's Idlib in a phone call. "President Trump reaffirmed his support for Turkey’s efforts to de-escalate the situation in northwest Syria and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's advisor Mesut Hakkı Çaşın has said that Turkey fought Russia 16 times in the past and "will fight it again," after an attack by the Syrian army killed Turkish troops. Caşın pointed to Russia’s sizeable Muslim population and claimed that the country "will be shattered from inside” should an armed conflict break out between Moscow and Ankara.
Russian state television said on Feb. 27 Turkish military specialists in Syria's Idlib region were using shoulder-fired missiles to try to shoot down Russian and Syrian military aircraft. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency refuted the claims, citing sources. Sources told Anadolu Agency that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have never opened fire on Russian troops or planes.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the alliance provides support to Turkey and that the allies are looking for what further can be done. "The allies 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."
Christian Berger, the head of the EU's delegation to Turkey, extended the delegation's condolences to Turkey following the Syrian army attack on Turkish soldiers in Idlib. The European Council has called on all parties to put in place a sustainable ceasefire, guarantee the protection of civilians and fully implement their commitments under the Sochi Memorandum of 17 September 2018," Berger said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Feb. 28 to discuss the implementation of agreements on Syria's Idlib province amid mounting tension, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The leaders also agreed to try to arrange a top-level meeting soon, Interfax reported.
Murat Yetkin writes: The Turkish government has been awaiting more support from the U.S. and NATO on the Syrian issue. Deploying Patriot missile systems in Turkey or utilizing the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean could be forms of such support. Currently, a U.S. cruiser with missile firing capacity is in Black Sea. Ankara is angry, but raising tensions with Russia to a further level is also a source of concern.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said that the attack on Turkish troops in Idlib were carried out despite coordination with Russia, adding that "even ambulances were hit in these airstrikes." Refuting Russia's claims, Akar said that there were no armed groups present around Turkish troops at the time of the attack.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will submit a motion to hold a closed session March 3 with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar informing deputies of recent developments in Idlib. Some 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by the Syrian army, raising the death toll of Turkish nationals in Idlib this month to 54.
A group of people on early Feb. 28 protested outside the Russian Consulate General in Istanbul against an attack that targeted Turkish troops in northwestern Idlib, Syria. “The whole world knows that Russia and [Syrian] regime forces were behind the attack,” said Sezgin Çelik, one of the protesters.
NATO ambassadors are set to meet on Feb. 28 to hold consultations about developments in Syria under Article 4 of the alliance's treaty at Turkey's request, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, after the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in a Syrian air strike in the Idlib region. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by phone late on Feb. 27.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Syrian border on Feb. 28, following a hectic night of events in the country's Idlib province. Akar and the top commanders also visited Hatay State Hospital to see the soldiers wounded in the attack.
Russia on Feb. 28 said it was sending two warships armed with cruise missiles to waters off the Syrian coast and blamed Ankara for the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in Syria's Idlib region the previous day. "Turkish military who were in the terrorist units’ battle formations came under Syrian troops’ fire near the inhabited community of Behun on Feb. 27," the ministry said.