Turkey warns Syria could ‘learn the hard way’ after Idlib conflict

ISTANBUL —Turkey’s ambassador to the United Nations on Friday said Ankara would not hesitate to retaliate if threatened by Syria, after deadly attacks in Idlib province severely escalated tensions between Turkey and Russian-backed Syrian forces.

“If they want to learn the hard way, they will,” Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu said during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

“Turkey does not want war. But Turkey will not hesitate to use force if and when its security is threatened,” he added.

Turkey, which backs the rebels in Syria’s civil war, blamed an attack that killed 33 of its soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday on the Syrian government. Thirty-two others were wounded.

Moscow, which backs the Syrian government, denied any involvement. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar charged however that the attack continued even though the troops’ location was shared with Russia. Ambulances were also hit, he said.

Hours later, at least 16 Syrian soldiers were killed in Turkish airstrikes and shelling in the countryside of Idlib, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told dpa. A Syrian military source confirmed to dpa that Syrian military posts were hit by Turkish artillery.

In a phone call earlier on Friday, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to seek calm in tension saying their militaries need to better coordinate regarding Idlib, according a Kremlin statement.

Both sides said steps must be taken to “normalize” the Idlib situation, it said.

“Serious concern was expressed over the escalation in Idlib that has resulted in numerous victims, including Turkish servicemen,” the Kremlin statement said of the call.

The Kremlin later said Putin and Erdogan could meet in Moscow on March 5 or 6.

Ankara called for a no-fly zone in Syria after Thursday’s attack, which marked the single largest death toll in a day of Turkey’s soldiers in the region.

Deaths among Turkish soldiers in Idlib have surpassed 50 since early February, when Ankara started deploying more troops there to stave off a Syrian offensive.

During the UN Security Council meeting US ambassador Kelly Craft pledged Washington’s “full support” for Turkey to “respond in self-defence to unjustified attacks on Turkish observation posts that resulted in the deaths of their own forces.”

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said Moscow took immediate efforts to “cease hostilities” once the incident became clear.

Meanwhile, Erdogan is yet to make a public announcement.

NATO allies condemned the “indiscriminate” airstrikes by the Syrian government and Russia and expressed solidarity with Turkey, which has the second-largest military in the alliance.

“I call on them to stop their offensive, to respect international law and to back the U.N. efforts for a peaceful solution,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Ahead of the meeting, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib and described the deadly attacks as “one of the most alarming moments across the duration of the Syrian conflict.”

Damascus’ steady advances into rebel-held territory in Idlib, enabled by Russian air power, have displaced nearly 950,000 people, who are fleeing to Turkey’s border.

A massive refugee influx is the most pressing concern for Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

Faced with this possible influx, Ankara said it was being forced to ease border controls for refugees trying to leave Turkey.

“There was only one step left” for Turkey to take “in an environment where it is left alone in hosting refugees and averting terrorism,” said Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun.

“It should be known that the Syrian refugees are now a problem for not only Turkey but the whole world, in particular the countries in the region and Europe,” he said, according to state news agency Anadolu.

Turkish and Greek media reported that hundreds of migrants were heading or had arrived at Turkey’s borders with European Union members Greece and Bulgaria.

Greece closed its Kastanies-Pazarkule border crossing with Turkey, and it was not immediately clear when it would reopen. Police fired tear gas at a group of people moving toward the border, state broadcaster ERT said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted that migrant arrivals will not be tolerated and that security was being increased on its borders.

Mitsotakis, who has been struggling to ease his country’s burden of having tens of thousands of migrants stranded on its soil, said: “Greece bears no responsibility for the tragic events in Syria and will not suffer the consequences of decisions taken by others.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said additional police were deployed to its border zone, adding that migrants were gathering on the Turkish side in Edirne. He also spoke with Erdogan by phone and said they had agreed to meet to discuss the migrant situation on Monday but did not specify where.

Just Posted

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Olymel says 642 workers were vaccinated at clinics held onsite last week. (File photo Advocate staff)
Employee raises alarm only 54% workers vaccinated at Red Deer’s Olymel

An Olymel worker is disappointed more employees did not access COVID-19 vaccination… Continue reading

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

EDMONTON — A criminologist says a recent court order that allows Alberta… Continue reading

Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen says the financial support will inevitably help with operational costs and keep the organization afloat as the pandemic continues to cut revenues. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park pleased with city deal, eagerly awaiting news on Westerner Days

The collective sigh of relief may have been simply metaphorical for Westerner… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

People participate in an Eid al-Fitr ceremony in Overpeck County Park in Ridgefield Park, N.J., Thursday, May 13, 2021. Millions of Muslims across the world are marking a muted and gloomy holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Ramadan drives donations, memberships to giving circles

Sahina Islam can still recall the day when she heard an elderly… Continue reading

Pandemic record for Manitoba: Province reports 560 new COVID-19 cases

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government reported a record 560 new COVID-19 cases… Continue reading

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government’s inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta’s oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

CALGARY — A judge has dismissed an attempt to quash the United… Continue reading

Unifor National President Jerry Dias is seen at a meeting in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and possibly put future increases into the hands of an independent commission. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Business, labour groups clash at Senate committee over $15 federal minimum wage

OTTAWA — The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament… Continue reading

In this file photo dated Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 sit in vials at the Fiocruz Foundation after being bottled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some health experts are questioning Canada's decision to accept thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week just for them to sit in freezers in an Ontario warehouse because provinces have shunned the idea of using any more of them for first doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bruna Prado, FILE
Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

OTTAWA — Some health experts are questioning Canada’s decision to accept thousands… Continue reading

In this image from video, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out of getting the border with Canada reopened is once again pressing his case with President Joe Biden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-House Television via AP
New CDC guidance makes it clear: time to reopen Canada-U.S. border, congressman says

WASHINGTON — A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out… Continue reading

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Medical exception letters required for Albertans who don’t wear masks in public areas

EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as… Continue reading

Most Read