BRUSSELS: NATO’s secretary-general called on Russia and Syria on Friday to halt the offensive in Idlib and said, after a meeting of the alliance’s ambassadors, that NATO stood in solidarity with Turkey.
“We call on Russia and the Syria regime to stop the attacks, to stop the indiscriminate air attacks ... we also call on Russia and Syria to fully respect the international law,” Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
“We call on Syria and Russia to fully engage in UN-led efforts to find a peaceful solution for the conflict in Syria.”
The statements come as conflict in the region escalated, with at least 33 Turkish soldiers killed in an airstrike blamed on Damascus.
NATO’s ruling council will meet Friday for urgent talks on the Syria crisis after at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike blamed on Damascus.
“The North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 29 NATO allies, will meet on Friday 28 February following a request by Turkey to hold consultations under article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria,” the alliance said in a statement.
Under Article 4, any NATO member can request talks when they believe their “territorial integrity, political independence or security” is threatened.
It is separate from the alliance’s Article 5 mutual self-defense pact, which refers to an attack on any members’ territory.
Dozens more Turkish troops were injured in the air strike in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, where President Bashar Assad is seeking to wipe out the last rebel stronghold.
The losses come after weeks of growing tensions between Ankara and Damascus ally Moscow, and bring to 53 the number of Turkish security personnel killed in the province this month.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged de-escalation and condemned the “indiscriminate” air strikes in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Ankara has called talks under Article 4 a number of times in recent years — twice in 2012 including after one of its jets was shot down by Syrian forces, and once in 2015 after a spate of terrorists attacks in Turkey.
After the 2012 incidents NATO agreed to deploy Patriot missile batteries in Turkey as a defensive measure.