A U.S. delegation arrived in Turkey on March 2 to hold talks on the situation in the embattled province of Idlib, Syria. During their visit, the U.S. delegation is expected to meet representatives of the UN and NGOs to discuss the humanitarian crisis of some one million refugees fleeing the clashes in Idlib.
The Kremlin on March 2 drew Turkey's attention to a warning from the Russian Defense Ministry that Moscow could not guarantee the safety of Turkish planes flying in Syria after Damascus said it was closing the air space over the Idlib region. A day earlier, a source in the Syrian Defense Ministry said on March 1 that Turkish F-16 fighter jets had downed two Syrian warplanes over the Idlib de-escalation zone, the pilots had ejected themselves.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Russia on March 5 for a one-day trip, the Turkish presidency said on March 2, amid tensions between Ankara and Moscow over escalating clashes with Syrian government forces in Syria's northwestern Idlib region. Erdoğan said that he hopes to achieve a ceasefire in Idlib in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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.
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.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that three Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria's Idlib, adding that developments there are turning in Ankara's favor. "Our battle will continue. We are saying that we're in Idlib as per the Adana Agreement," Erdoğan said, referring to an agreement signed in 1998 by Turkey’s then-President Süleyman Demirel and Syria’s then-President Hafez al-Assad.
Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have recaptured the strategic town of Saraqeb, the first significant reverse for the Syrian army in a Russian-backed offensive that had made swift gains, the rebels said on Feb. 27.
Title is from a song by Sheffield band Pulp’s well known 1995 debut album: “Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh…” With a sleight of hand replace “biscuits” with “promises” and there you have it, a concise executive summary of Erdoğan’s Syria and Libya policies.
Damascus has said that it "categorically rejects" Turkish presence on Syrian soil. "Syria reaffirms its categorical rejection of any Turkish presence on the Syrian territory, as it constitutes a flagrant violation of the international law and a blatant aggression on the Syrian sovereignty," it said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the Syrian government will pay a "heavy price" for attacking Turkish troops in northwest Syria's Idlib region. "They will pay a very heavy price as they attack our soldiers," Erdoğan said. "Especially in Idlib, they got what they deserved. But this is not enough, it will continue," he added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Syrian government and Russia to cease their attacks in Idlib. “We call on Assad and on Russia, because Russia provides support to the regime, to stop these attacks, to respect international law and to fully support the UN efforts to try to find a peaceful solution,” Stoltenberg said.
Turkey-backed Syrian rebels downed a helicopter belonging to the Syrian army in Idlib's Saraqib on Feb. 11. The helicopter was downed by a ground-to-air missile fired by the militants, two rebel commanders told Reuters.
Turkey has told a visiting Russian delegation that attacks on Turkish observation posts in Idlib must be stopped immediately, following the death of five Turkish soldiers in an attack by the Syrian government forces. The delegation, however, left Ankara with no apparent agreement on how to halt clashes that killed 13 Turkish soldiers in a week.
Murat Yetkin writes: Countering the threat outside of Turkish borders can be a security policy; but who thought first to send Turkish soldiers into the quicksand before taking necessary measures? I don’t mean Erdoğan, he’s the final decision-maker; who was the one who brought this idea into the system? Who talked the decision-makers into it?
U.S. special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, is expected to visit Ankara on Feb. 12 to discuss the current situation in the Syrian province of Idlib. The visit comes amid simmering tension between Ankara and the regime of Bashar al-Assad over the fate of the province.