Assad will face consequences for killing Turkish soldiers – Erdoğan
(Updates with statements from Pompeo, paragraphs 5-8).
Syrian President Bashar Assad will face consequences after his forces bombarded areas in Idlib province killing five Turkish soldiers and three personnel on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
“Of course, there will be consequences for the regime,” Erdoğan told reporters on a return flight from Ukraine on Tuesday, referring to Assad’s government.
Turkey responded on Monday bombarding dozens of Syrian government targets. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish forces had hit 54 targets in Idlib and killed 76 Syrian government soldiers.
“I believe these operations were a severe lesson, but we aren’t going to stop there, we will continue with the same determination,” Erdoğan said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later on Tuesday condemned the Syrian government’s attacks on Idlib province, stating Washington's support for Turkey in light of Syria’s mortar attacks in the region.
“The United States once again condemns the continued, unjustifiable, and ruthless assaults on the people of Idlib,” Reuters quoted Pompeo as saying in a statement.
“We stand by our NATO ally Turkey in the aftermath of the attack, which resulted in the death of multiple Turkish personnel serving at an observation post used for coordination and de-escalation, and fully support Turkey’s justified self-defense actions in response,“ Pompeo said.
The U.S. secretary of state went on to say the United States fully supports Turkey’s “justified self-defense actions in response”.
Pompeo also showed his support on Twitter
The U.S. stands by our @NATO Ally #Turkey in the aftermath of the mortar attack by Assad regime forces on Turkish observation posts. This is a grave escalation. The Assad regime, Russia, Iran, and Hizballah's ruthless actions are preventing the establishment of a ceasefire.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 4, 2020
Erdoğan earlier on Tuesday said that Turkey’s observation posts would remain in Idlib and said they were playing a vital role in the province, which contains the last significant rebel-held areas in the country and has been subject to fierce bombardment by Syria and its Russian allies since last year.
Turkey signed a deal with Russia in September 2018 to halt the Syrian government advance, but Assad’s forces began bombarding Idlib again last April after they said Turkey had allowed extremists to dominate the province in breach of the agreement.
Erdoğan stressed that Turkey was still closely cooperating with Russia and that no serious conflict existed between the countries despite the fighting on Monday.