On March 3rd, the Turkish Ambassador to the UK, Ümit Yalçın said that Turkey had request military support for its Idlib operation from its NATO allies.
Yalcin said Turkey was calling on its NATO allies – the majority of them also members of the EU – to provide diplomatic, political, military and humanitarian support to Turkey in its fight to push back a regime advance from capturing Idlib province on its border.
The alliance’s 29 ambassadors held a North Atlantic Council session on February 28th, called by Turkey under Article 4 of NATO’s founding principles – this refers to when an ally has concerns about its security.
The meeting resulted in some hollow rhetoric that expressed a wish for a ceasefire, but no concrete decision to provide any sort of tangible support for Turkey in Idlib.
“The NATO support is important to strengthen our border and our air defenses,” he said.
“We also need deterrence against Syrian regime atrocities. And we should again keep engagement with Russia intact to keep that area calm and peaceful.”
He indicated that Turkey was looking more for support provided by military aircraft and ground air defense systems than actual troops on the ground.
“NATO support should be visible and concrete,” the ambassador said.
“We already started our own operation and we need that support behind us.”
He also accused the EU of “betrayal, hypocrisy and selfishness” for failing to uphold an agreement to stem the flow of Syrian refugees and migrants into Europe.
The UK Foreign Minister, Dominic Raab changed his schedule of overseas tours to fit in a visit to Ankara in a presumed show of support for Turkey.
Umit Yalcin said Ankara welcomed the show of support.
“This is very meaningful and a very important approach, a show of solidarity and friendship,” he told Sky News.
Ankara accused Brussels of failing to meet the terms of a migration deal struck in March 2016 that saw Turkey agree to stop migrants and refugees crossing into Europe in return for €6bn and enhanced EU-Turkey ties, including visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and an upgraded customs union.
Yalcin said: “We did our fulfilment of our commitment and they did not do anything.
“And because of that – enough is enough. We are overloaded. We cannot control millions and millions of people. We only ask for fair and equal responsibility sharing and burden sharing. We only want to see the fulfilment of that deal, not more.”
He was also asked if Ankara felt betrayed by the EU:
“It is a betrayal, hypocrisy, selfishness and it is not sincere, it is not fair… If they can only fulfil their commitments in that agreement I think that would be wonderful.”
The ambassador rejected allegations from the EU that Ankara was resorting to “blackmail” in allowing migrants in Turkey to move to its border with Greece, which it very obviously is doing.
He said: “To prevent additional humanitarian crisis on anywhere in Europa or on any border with Europe we should first prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 5th, to discuss the situation in Idlib.
Yalcin said the bilateral meeting was “very critical”.
“We need to preserve the de-escalation area status of Idlib,” he said. “We need to see a real ceasefire. We need to protect civilians in Idlib and we need to remind them (Russia) of their responsibility to respect those de-escalation memorandums.”
Russia maintains its claim that Turkey is in default of fulfilling its commitments under the Sochi agreement.
According to Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations to create a demilitarized zone. According to him, Turkish observation posts have merged with fortified terrorist areas.
“Attacks and massive artillery shelling of neighboring peaceful settlements and the Russian Khmeimim air base from sporadic became daily,” Konashenkov said.
He also noted that Turkey, in violation of international law, threw into Idlib “a strike force of the strength of a mechanized division,” and that “no one in the West watches” Ankara’s actions.
The United States is willing to give NATO ally Turkey ammunition alongside humanitarian assistance in northwestern Syria where Ankara is in a deepening standoff with Russia, the U.S. special representative for the region said on March 3rd.
On March 2nd, Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey and US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kelly Kraft arrived in Turkey. The main agenda of the visit was the escalation of hostilities in Syrian Idlib and possible military assistance to a NATO member.
“We’re willing to provide – for example the President (Trump) mentioned this – ammunition,” Jeffrey said, adding Turkish counterparts had also “very much stressed” the need for humanitarian assistance.
“Turkey is a NATO ally. We have a very, very big foreign military sales programme, much of the Turkish military uses American equipment,” he said. “We will make sure that that equipment is ready. As a NATO partner we share information intelligence…and we are going to ensure that they have what they need there.”
In addition, US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield told reporters that the United States is considering a request from the Turkish government for the acquisition of Patriot, a long-range air-to-air missile system.
On the previous day, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that no air support would be provided to Turkey.
Regarding refugees, Esper said that opening borders is Turkey’s decision to make pic.twitter.com/TaxduXjFp9
— EHA News (@eha_news) March 2, 2020
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- 1 Turkish Soldier Killed, 9 Others Injured In Syrian-Iranian Strike On Their Positions Near Nayrab (Video)
- Map Update: Syrian Army Gains In Battle Against Turkish-led Forces Since March 2, 2020
- In Video: Turkish Combat Drones Pound Syrian Military Convoy In Greater Idlib