U.S. State Dept sends condolences to Turkey for Idlib casualties

The United States sends condolences to the Turkish government and stands by NATO ally Turkey against the Syrian government’s attacks in the Idlib province, a spokeswoman for the State Department told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump “reiterated (the United States’) call for Russia to end its support for the Assad regime’s atrocities,” during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week, the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.

An air strike targeting Turkish forces in the rebel-held province killed two Turkish soldiers and wounded five more on Thursday. Turkish forces in retaliation killed more than 50 regime fighters, Turkey’s defence ministry announced.  

Since the beginning of February, 15 Turkish soldiers have died in Idlib. Close to 1 million people have fled towards the Turkish border since December last year to avoid Syrian government shelling, creating the risk of a new refugee influx to add to the 3.6 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

Syrian government forces launched an offensive on Idlib in April, with support from Russia. Turkey and Russia have been in talks over the last two weeks to ease tensions in the province, but failed to reach a compromise as Russia says Turkey did not hold up its end of a 2018 deal, which required it to remove jihadist groups in Idlib from a demilitarised zone established by Turkey and Russia.