By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy for the Syrian conflict will discuss ways to assist Turkey's "security concerns" and the Idlib crisis during an upcoming trip to NATO headquarters, the State Department said Monday.
After arriving in Brussels, Belgium, James Jeffrey "will visit NATO where he will meet with Allies on the crisis in Idlib and discuss its implications for NATO and ways to support Turkey’s security concerns," the department said in a statement.
Jeffrey will also meet with senior European Union officials "to discuss and seek assistance for the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, particularly in Idlib, and to press for the implementation of" the UN roadmap for political settlement to the Syrian conflict, the department added.
In recent weeks, Syrian regime forces stepped up attacks on Turkish troops in Idlib province amid their offensive on the region. The Turkish soldiers were working to protect local civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
Ankara launched Operation Spring Shield on Feb. 27 after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in Idlib.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to a new cease-fire for Idlib effective as of midnight on March 5.
Under the agreement, all military activities are to end in Idlib with the establishment of a security corridor 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to the north and south of the key M4 highway.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
Idlib falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to some four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.