Türkİye, World, Americas, Middle East, Operation Spring Shield

US officials signal support for Turkey in Idlib, Syria

We evaluate support for Turkey in terms of military, intelligence, diplomacy, humanitarian aid, say key US diplomats

Omer Tugrul Cam  | 03.03.2020 - Update : 04.03.2020
US officials signal support for Turkey in Idlib, Syria U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft

HATAY, Turkey

The U.S. could support Turkey’s efforts in Syria with military, diplomatic, and humanitarian aid, and could also offer military equipment, including perhaps Patriot missiles, said three key U.S. diplomats Tuesday visiting southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border.

U.S. Ambassador to UN Kelly Craft said Syrians whom she saw are grateful to the U.S. and Turkey, upon visiting the Altinozu refugee camp in Hatay, southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border.

“I will give the following message when I go back to the UN Security Council: This is enough. A permanent cease-fire has to be achieved [in Syria],” said Craft. She said the Assad regime cannot go on in Syria.

Craft touched on her visit to the White Helmets civil defense team in Syria, and teams working to educate Syrian children, and thanked Turkey for organizing the visits.

"The most important thing I will emphasize in the Security Council is this: We have to keep the borders open, we need to make sure humanitarian aid reaches to all who are in Syria or Turkey, displaced from their homes. That is why negotiations should start right away."

Citing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call for a new border passage, Craft said maybe there should even be a third border point for the flow of humanitarian aid.

"Turkey is a NATO country and uses our equipment in its army to a great extent. If they need, we would like this equipment to be ready," James Jeffrey, the U.S. Syria envoy and former ambassador to Turkey, told reporters while visiting camps housing refugees from Assad regime attacks.

He added, "Turkey is one of the most important counterparts of the U.S. defense industry. As President Trump said, we will support Turkey," he said, emphasizing that the U.S. exchanges intelligence with Turkey and supports it diplomatically.

On Turkey possibly buying the Patriot missile defense from the Washington., U.S. Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield, who accompanied Jeffrey, said: "We understand Turkey's air defense wishes. This is under evaluation. We do everything we can to support Turkey both in Brussels and in NATO.''

Jeffrey also stated: "We evaluate support for Turkey in terms of military, intelligence, diplomacy, humanitarian aid."

"We will be closely watching presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin's meeting in Moscow [set for Thursday]. Right now we're focused on humanitarian aid and supporting Turkey diplomatically. I spoke to a high-level Russian official yesterday, I emphasized that Turkey wants a real cease-fire."

Blasting the Assad regime attacks in Idlib as "vile," Jeffrey added: "The Assad regime is conducting an immoral policy, trying to push millions out of Idlib. On the other hand, Turkey and Syrian opposition are fighting to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

"What Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies want is more refugees. The Turkish army and the Syrian opposition are acting in line with UN Resolution 2254, for a peaceful and political solution. Kelly Craft is working hard at the UN Security Council in order to make sure this happens."

On U.S. sanctions, Jeffrey said: "We are working on additional sanctions on the Assad regime and some parties from Russia."

Idlib, just across Turkey’s southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.

But the Syrian regime and its allies have consistently broken the terms of the agreement, launching frequent attacks inside the territory, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield on Sunday after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib.

Under the 2018 deal with Russia, Turkish troops were in Idlib to protect civilians from attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.

More than 1,300 civilians have been killed in the Idlib de-escalation zone in such attacks, sending 1 million refugees towards Turkey's border with Syria.

*Writing by Firdevs Bulut

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