Dozens of Turkish troops were killed in air strikes on the Syrian government, which marked a dramatic escalation in the conflict between Ankara and Moscow-backed troops in northwestern Syria.
The 33 dead attacked an attack in Idlib late on Thursday and come while the Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian air force, try to seize the last remaining area by the Syrian opposition forces supported by Turkey.
The toll is the deadliest that the Turkish army has suffered since it intervened in Syria in 2016 and feared a confrontation between Turkey and Russia on the battlefield.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, February 28
17:30 GMT – Turkish officials demand ‘sustainable ceasefire’
Turkey officials met a Russian delegation in Ankara on Friday and said that a sustainable ceasefire should be established immediately in the Idlib region.
“On the Russian side, we emphasized the need for the explanation of a sustainable stock, de-escalation [of the situation on the field], and withdrawal of the regime forces to the borders agreed in the Sochi deal, “Turkish spokesman Hami Aksoy, Foreign Minister said in a statement.
The meeting took place at the request of the Russian side, Aksoy said.
17:00 GMT – UN Security Council meets on Friday
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Friday.
The meeting is expected to begin at 2100 GMT, the acting chairman of the council, Belgian ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, told reporters.
He said the meeting was requested by the United States, Germany, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Estonia and the Dominican Republic.
16:30 GMT – UK calls for a UN emergency meeting
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab condemns the murder of Turkish soldiers in Idlib and said he will argue for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“There is no reason for such flagrant disregard for international law or fundamental human decency,” said Raab statement.
“Building on new sanctions announced earlier this month, we will work with our international partners to further tighten this screw until these crimes stop.”
16:15 GMT – France expresses its condolences and confirms solidarity with Turkey
France Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drien declares his solidarity with Turkey and condemns the “repeated violations” of human rights by the Syrian government and Russia.
“I reiterated France’s call for the Syrian regime and Russia to put an end to the military offensive in north-western Syria, to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and to return to the cease- the 2018 fall-fire arrangements to end hostilities immediately, “Le Drian said in one statement said after one conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavasoglu.
Communiqué de @JY_LeDrian :
“Je me suis entretenu cet après-midi avec @MevlutCavusoglu. J’ai express à homologue les condoléances et la solidarité de la France avec la Turquie à la suite de l’attaque contre les forces turques en #Syria“
– France Diplomacy🇫🇷 (@francediplo) February 28, 2020
I now transfer this blog to my colleague Virginia Pietromarchi in Doha, Qatar.
15:10 GMT – Greece will not tolerate “illegal entry” of refugees and migrants
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, says that “significant numbers” of refugees and migrants are gathering at the land border between Greece and Turkey and trying to “illegally” enter the country.
Mitsotakis wthat Greece will not allow the illegal entry of refugees and migrants into the country. “We are increasing border security,” he adds.
Greece has no responsibility whatsoever for the tragic events in Syria and will not be affected by the decisions of others. I have informed the European Union about the situation.
– Premier GR (@PrimeministerGR) February 28, 2020
14:45 GMT – Refugees, migrants go to the border between Turkey and Greece
Local media in Turkey post videos and photos of dozens of refugees and migrants in the country on their way to the border with Greece, while an Athens-based newspaper reports that Greek border guards use tear gas to scare around 500 people trying to enter the European land to come.
This is after the Turkish Foreign Ministry has warned that refugees and migrants are on their way to Europe due to the situation in Idlib.
Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper, posted a video of people gathered at the Turkish border crossing Pazarkule, while Hurriyet also posted a video of people crossing the Evros river border between the two countries.
– Yeni Şafak English (@yenisafakEN) February 28, 2020
– Hurriyet.com.tr (@Hurriyet) February 28, 2020
Kathimerini, a Greek newspaper, said border guards in Evros were making “horrific use” of tear gas and “this is the first time such a large group of migrants and refugees [have] tried to make a massive crossing to Evros “.
14:16 GMT – Turkey in crisis management mode with Russia
Earlier today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, about the situation in Idlib, says that an analyst wants to avoid conflict with Moscow.
“Any Turkish response to Russia will take into account the responses of the US and NATO. Unless Turkey receives a very strong commitment from the US and NATO – such as the imposition of a no-fly zone arrangement on Idlib – then “Reacting to Russia physically costs the war for Russia in terms of targeting Syrian regime forces, and making a distinction between the regime and Russia,” says Galip Dalay, fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
“Turkey will continue to focus on the Syrian regime, but will be very cautious with regard to Russia. Turkey will most likely expand its geographic scope when it comes to targeting Syrian regime forces outside of Idlib, which can spread to Aleppo and over east of the Euphrates, but it will do so in a way that will not completely destroy its relations with Russia, “he tells Al Jazeera.
13:30 GMT – Bulgaria sends 1,000 troops to the border with Turkey
According to Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, Bulgaria is ready to place 1,000 soldiers on its border with Turkey to prevent the entry of migrants into its territory.
Karakachanov says in a Facebook message that the Bulgarian army “will take all necessary measures to protect its borders”.
Greece is too stimulate patrols on the border with Turkey.
13:00 GMT – Putin, Erdogan ‘voting problem’ about Idlib
A statement from the Kremlin says that the Russian and Turkish presidents earlier today said in a phone call “concerns about the escalation of tension in Idlib” after the death of Turkish soldiers.
The conversation took place at the initiative of Turkey, the Kremlin says in a statement, adding: “Both parties reaffirmed the need for additional measures to normalize the situation in north-western Syria.”
12:20 GMT – Savior of White Helmet describes ‘disastrous situation in Idlib’
Abdulla Hussein, rescue worker at the Syrian White Helmets, says that the Syrian government’s air strikes on Idlib’s second largest city – Maaret al-Numan – are so severe that its colleagues and medical aid organizations have no access to the area.
“The situation in Idlib is disastrous in all meanings. The people there have no options. The shelling of the Syrian government, supported by Russian warplanes, has even targeted the main roads that citizens use to flee different towns and villages. , “he tells Al Jazeera in Reyhanli, southern Turkey.
“The last two days, with the progress of Syrian forces toward Mount Zawiya area [a highland area that includes Maaret al-Numan]citizens have left their villages and towns there. Our teams and medical aid organizations do not even have access to the area due to the seriousness of the air bombing there. “
12:00 GMT – NATO calls on Russia and Syria to ‘stop random attacks’
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, calls on Russia and Syria to stop the Idlib offensive and “participate fully in UN-led efforts for a peaceful political solution” to the conflict.
“We call on Russia and the Syrian regime to stop the attacks, to stop the random air attacks … we also call on Russia and Syria to fully respect international law,” Stoltenberg tells reporters in Brussels, Belgium .
“This dangerous situation must be escalated.”
#NATO has just met in solidarity with our ally Turkey, after the death of Turkish soldiers near Idlib. We condemn the random air strikes of the Syrian regime and Russia. This dangerous situation must be escalated and humanitarian access allowed: https://t.co/TxBqHO5NVF pic.twitter.com/XCatlnyB9k
– Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 28, 2020
11:30 GMT – Erdogan, Putin discussing Idlib during a telephone conversation
The Turkish and Russian presidents discussed the situation in Idlib in a telephone conversation, says Interfax news agency, referring to the Russian Foreign Minister.
“The conversation was detailed and focused on the need to comply with the original Idlib de-escalation agreements,” says Sergey Lavrov, adding that the two leaders are also investigating the possibility of a meeting in the near future .
11:00 GMT – EU warns of ‘major international’ conflict in Syria
Josep Borrell, the head of the European Union’s foreign policy, calls for an urgent end to the escalation in northwestern Syria and warns that tensions can slip into a “big open international military confrontation”.
“It also causes unbearable humanitarian suffering and puts civilians at risk,” he says in a Twitter message. “The EU calls on all parties to rapid de-escalation and regrets all loss of life.”
(02/01) #Idlib – Ongoing escalation around must urgently stop. There is a risk that you may slip into a major open international military confrontation. It also causes unbearable humanitarian suffering and puts civilians at risk.
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) February 28, 2020
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of increasing tensions between Turkey and Syria in north-west Idlib. I am Zaheena Rasheed and I deal with the latest developments from Doha, Qatar, and my colleague Linah Alsaafin is in Reyhanli, southern Turkey.