America has pledged to give Turkey ammunition and equipment in order to help in the fight against Syrian government forces in Idlib.
James Jeffrey, US envoy to Turkey, said Tuesday that Ankara will also receive humanitarian aid and intelligence briefings because it is a NATO ally.
David Satterfield, Washington’s ambassador in Turkey, added that the US is also reviewing a Turkish request for air defences after the country controversially opted to buy Russian S-400 systems instead of American-made weapons.
It comes amid escalating clashes between Turkish forces and Assad’s men in Idlib, where a Syrian government plane was shot down on Tuesday.
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet (file image) shot down a Syrian government L-39 warplane over the Syrian province of Idlib on Tuesday, Ankara’s defence ministry claimed
Turkey is attempting to stop a Syrian government attack on Idlib (pictured) which it fears will spark a fresh refugee crisis on its eastern border
James Jeffrey, US envoy to Turkey, has promised equipment, ammunition and intelligence to help in Turkey’s fight against Assad
A Turkish F-16 jet shot down an L-39 plane belonging to Assad’s forces, the Turkish military confirmed.
Turkey is attempting to stop a Syrian government attack on Idlib amid fears it will spark a fresh refugee crisis on its eastern border.
The province is home to some 4million people, almost half of whom have been displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria and are living in tent cities hard up against Turkey’s border.
In response, Turkey has opened its western border with Greece – telling European leaders that they must ‘accept their share’ of refugees caused by the conflict.
Fighting between the regime and Turkey has been escalating in recent days, after a Syrian government airstrike hit a Turkish outpost last week, killing 34 troops.
On Monday Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar announced an operation against Syrian government forces – dubbed Spring Shield – which he said began last week.
He claimed Turkey had destroyed 103 tanks, eight helicopters, a drone, 72 howitzers, rocket launchers and six air defence systems.
A further 2,212 members of the Syrian regime forces have also been killed, wounded or captured, Akar claimed.
Syria’s state news agency confirmed that one of its L-39 warplanes was targeted on Tuesday, but did not say whether it had been shot down
Turkey has declared a military operation against Syrian government forces, claiming to have killed, wounded or captured 2,000 troops, shot down three planes and destroyed 100 tanks (pictured, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels)
The Syrian Observatory, a UK-based monitor, said 74 Syrian government troops and pro-Damascus fighters had been killed since February 27.
Meanwhile the Assad regime said it shot down three Turkish drones used to target its bases and threatened to destroy any aircraft breaching its north-west airspace.
‘Any aircraft that violates our airspace will be dealt with as an enemy aircraft that must be brought down,’ state news SANA reported citing a military source.
The Assad regime has also agreed this afternoon to host a diplomatic mission from parallel Libyan authorities led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, opposed to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, to confront Turkish ‘interference’.
Turkey’s attacks further muddy the waters of Syria’s years-long civil war, which has sucked in a host of regional and western powers.
The Assad regime’s assault is being backed by Russian air power. Turkey and Russia have struck alliances elsewhere in Syria, but in Idlib find themselves on opposite sides of the frontline.
There are fears that the assault could lead to a direct confrontation between the two countries. Turkey is a NATO ally, and can call on other alliance members to come to its defence if it is attacked.
Turkey is also attempting to pressure European leaders into the conflict by throwing open its border to hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe
Idlib is home to some 4million people, almost half of whom have been displaced by fighting elsewhere and are living in tent cities hard up against Turkey’s border
President Erdogan has said he hopes to broker a cease-fire in Syria later this week when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Turkey is already trying to pressure European powers to come to its aid, announcing last week that border guards will no longer stop migrants from reaching Europe.
Erdogan has said that Europe will have to share the burden of some 3.6million refugees who have ended up in his country after fleeing Syria.
Turkey has been safeguarding Europe’s eastern border since 2016, when Erdogan signed a deal to halt the flow of refugees.
But on Monday he told supporters that the deal is now finished, adding: ‘The doors are now open. Now, you will have to take your share of the burden.’
‘Hundreds of thousands have crossed, soon it will reach millions.’
Greek troops and police remained on high alert on Tuesday along the land border with Turkey, which has seen thousands of migrants try to cross in the last few days.
A man toasts bread over a fire at a small camp for refugees and migrants on the Turkish shoreline of the Evros River, near the border with Greece
A man from Afghanistan rests as children play around him at a small refugee camp on the Turkish shoreline of the Evros River, near the Greek border
Syrian kids pose for a photo with boots that were provided by humanitarian workers as they wait to try and cross the border into Greece
Greek authorities said the border had been quiet overnight, in contrast to the clashes seen over the weekend and into Monday.
Police used tear gas against migrants, including women and children, stuck in the no-man’s land.
‘There were only a few attempts today (by migrants to cross the border). Let’s hope they get the message,’ a machine gun-toting army officer told Reuters near the Kastanies border crossing.
Army jeeps patrolled the area, and roads leading to the Evros river which marks the Greek-Turkish border remained shut.
‘Greece’s borders are also Europe’s borders,’ Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement released ahead of a planned inspection tour of the area later on Tuesday with the heads of the three main EU institutions.
The presidents of the executive European Commission, the European Council – which represents national governments – and the European Parliament want to demonstrate their solidarity with Greece.