UPDATES WITH PHONE CONVERSATION WITH EU HEAD; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK
By Berk Ozkan
ISTANBUL (AA) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday spoke over the phone with Bulgarian and Hungarian prime ministers and the head of the European Commission to discuss the recent developments in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
According to a statement by the Turkish Communications Directorate, Erdogan and Bulgaria’s Boyko Borisov discussed the effects of recent developments in Syria on the region and steps for cooperation between their countries.
Separately, the Turkish president also spoke to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban to discuss recent developments in Idlib, regional issues and bilateral relations.
Later, Erdogan's held a phone conversation with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
In the phone call with von der Leyen, Erdogan stressed that the international community should take more responsibility to find a solution to the Syria crisis.
Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in the Idlib, Syria de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.
The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping their pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.
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 Fahri Aksut and Burak Dag