NATO ally Turkey has the full right to defend itself in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, as he commented on the escalation of tensions in war-torn Idlib.
“We believe firmly that our NATO partner Turkey has the full right to defend itself against the risk that’s being created by what [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, the Russians and the Iranians are doing inside of Syria,” Pompeo said on March 5.
Speaking before Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a ceasefire, Pompeo said that the U.S. requires Moscow and Ankara to move back to the Sochi agreement of 2018.
A ceasefire came into effect early March 6 in Idlib following talks in Moscow. Under the protocol, Turkey and Russia, as guarantor countries to observe the ceasefire, recalled the memorandum on the creation of de‑escalation areas in Syria as of May 4, 2017 and the memorandum on stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area as of Sept. 17, 2018.
The meeting was arranged after Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield in Idlib on March 1 following a Syrian army attack that killed 34 Turkish soldiers.
Pompeo, when asked about Ankara’s requests from Washington, particularly Patriot missiles, said that the evaluations are ongoing.
“As we know, hundreds of thousands of Syrians of all faiths, but predominantly Muslim, are being harmed by what the Assad regime, the Russians, and the Iranians are doing inside of Idlib. And the Turkish government has asked us for a handful of things. We’re evaluating all of those requests,” he said.
Pompeo also commented on the migration crisis that has been ongoing since Turkey announced last week that it won’t prevent migrants from crossing into Europe.
“Our team, along with the Department of Defense team, is trying to figure out how best to deliver less violence, more peace there, and stop the enormous humanitarian crisis that is – continues to take place,” he said.
“Ambassador [Kelly] Craft and Ambassador [James] Jeffrey were both there working to see how we can bring American and European resources to bear to mitigate this humanitarian crisis on the ground in Idlib and in the southern parts of Turkey,” Pompeo added.