The United States will not provide air support to Turkey in the war-torn Syrian province of Idlib, Pentagon Chief Mark Esper has said, speaking to reporters in Washington on March 2.One Turkish soldier killed, one wounded in new attack in Idlib
Asked directly if the U.S. assistance would include air support, Esper responded bluntly "No."
"I should add that the the United States is looking at providing increased humanitarian aid for the persons in Syria. That's one thing I had a conversation with [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] about that," Esper said, Sputnik reported.
The secretary of defense also confirmed that he has spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the situation in Syria and that NATO was prepared for anything that might happen.
Commenting on Ankara's recent move to open its borders with the European Union, Esper said that this was Turkey's decision to make.Erdoğan hopes for Idlib ceasefire in talks with Putin on March 5
Asked what he told his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar during their recent phone call, Esper said the message was that "Russians aren't always good partners."
Also March 2, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said there was "no clear, unambiguous intelligence on who was flying which planes" in the deadly attack on Turkish troops in Idlib last week.
Earlier, Moscow said that the Russian air force was not involved in the strikes in the area of Behun, Idlib where the troops were killed. Later, the Russian Defense Ministry clarified that the Turkish forces were hit by Syria as it retaliated to a Nusra offensive, with the troops operating outside of their observation posts and in the same area as Nusra militants for some reason.
On Feb. 29, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed that he had discussed Turkey's request for the temporary deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles in southern Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, adding that the talks were ongoing.Kremlin tells Turkey it cannot guarantee safety of its planes over Idlib
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urged Turkey's NATO allies to assist the country with air defence and intelligence cooperation.
Idlib tensions exploded in February after the deaths of Turkish military personnel in the course of an ongoing Syrian military offensive against Turkey-backed rebels. Damascus began its operation in the wayward province in December, after repeated attacks on Syrian troops by jihadist militants.