Turkish defense min. meets British, French counterparts

– In bilateral talks in Brussels, officials discuss military, security, defense cooperation, address Libya, Syria issues

By Sarp Ozer

BRUSSEL (AA) – Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had separate meetings with his British and French counterparts in Brussels on Thursday.

Akar visited NATO headquarters on the second day of NATO defense ministers meeting.

He met with U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace before attending a session on defense, deterrence and burden-sharing.

Akar later met with his French counterpart, Florence Parly.

During the bilateral meetings, the officials exchanged views on cooperation in military, security and defense industry. They also discussed regional developments, particularly in Libya and Syria, the latest situation in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, and necessary moves to end the humanitarian crisis in the region.

During the talks, Akar underlined that civilians in Idlib, who flee their hometown due to violence, have been heading towards Turkish border, not to the regions under the regime control.

Akar later left Brussel to join President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his two-day official visit to Pakistan.

At least five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib 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.