CORRECTS – Turkish, US defense chiefs discuss Syria, Iraq

– Akar, Esper discuss security and defense issues in Syria, Iraq

Corrects previous version which erroneously reported that the two ministers "agreed" on importance of more concrete steps by NATO and the U.S. in Idlib. A corrected version of the story is as follows:

By Sarp Ozer

BRUSSELS (AA) – Turkish and U.S. defense ministers discussed Wednesday the situation in Syria and Iraq on the sidelines of NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.

Hulusi Akar and Mark Esper exchanged views on security and defense issues regarding Syria and Iraq, including situation in Idlib. The two ministers discussed the importance of more concrete steps by both the U.S. and NATO on Idlib.

Prior to the main meeting of the NATO defense ministers, Akar expressed content with statements by U.S. officials regarding the latest developments in Idlib.

At least five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlibm Syria earlier this week.

That followed last week’s attack by regime forces in Idlib which martyred seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor working with the Turkish military. It also injured more than a dozen people.

In retaliation, Turkey neutralized more than 120 Assad regime military personnel since last week.

Turkish troops are in Idlib as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since, flouting a 2018 cease-fire and a new one that began Jan. 12.