ADDS STATEMENT OF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER; CHANGES SPOT, LEDE
By Ruslan Rehimov
BAKU (AA) - Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on Friday offered condolences to his Turkish counterpart after a Syrian regime attack in Idlib martyred dozens of Turkish soldiers.
Referring to Recep Tayyip Erdogan as "my dear brother", Aliyev said in a message: "I received the news of Turkish soldiers being martyred with deep sorrow. On my behalf and the people of Azerbaijan, I extend my condolences to you, to the families and relatives of those who lost their lives, and to the brotherly Turkish nation. May Allah rest their souls in peace."
Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry also offered condolences to Turkey.
"We are deeply saddened by the news that Turkish soldiers were martyred in Idlib. We wish Allah's mercy on the martyrs, extend our condolences to their families and the Turkish nation," the Foreign Ministry said in a tweet.
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov sent a condolence message to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar and Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler.
Hasanov said he is "deeply saddened" over the "malicious attack" on the "brotherly" Turkish army, and extended his condolences to the families and relatives of martyrs, and wished speedy recovery to wounded.
"Your pain is our pain. I am confident that the anti-terror operation carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces will be successful, I wish you success," he added.
At least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and tens of others injured late on Thursday in an airstrike by the Bashar al-Assad regime forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
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 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the zone since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
In recent weeks, attacks by the regime and its allies have also targeted Turkish soldiers on a peace mission in Idlib.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee hosting country.
* Writing by Burak Bir and Jeyhun Aliyev