US takes Turkey's concerns in Idlib seriously: official

– ‘Turkey is a key player in regional security issues. We continue to engage with them,’ says State Dept. official

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. is taking Turkey's security concerns seriously in Syrian province of Idlib as confrontation between Ankara and Bashar al-Assad regime’s grows, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Christopher Robinson told the Senate Foreign Relations committee that Turkey has been facing threats from its Syrian border, citing Iran and Russian as the sources of the menace.

"While we have some differences with government of Ankara on certain issues, we are engaged with them, because we take their security concerns seriously," said Robinson. "Turkey is key NATO ally and it is a key player in regional security issues. We continue to engage with them."

His remarks came after Assad regime forces continued attacks on civilians and the recent attack on Turkish troops that martyred at least five Turkish soldiers and injured many others in Syria’s northwestern Idlib.

"Turkey has just suffered serious losses from soldiers in Syria at the hand of Assad regime backed by the Russian government," said the senior U.S. official.

Robinson said Turkey has been calling for Russia to fulfill its responsibilities on what is happening in the war-torn country.

"Russia is not honoring its commitments. This is continuing problem. They say one thing, but their acts tell another story," he added.

The attack earlier this week 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.

Turkey retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and killing 200 Assad regime troops.

Turkish troops are in Idlib — nominally a cease-fire zone, under a deal between Turkey and Russia — 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.

More than 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks in the past year.

Turkey remains the country with most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million migrants since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.