Brussels - Ambassadors from all 29 NATO nations met in emergency session in Brussels this morning, after Turkey invoked Article 4 of the alliance treaty. “Under Article 4 of the Treaty, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened,” NATO said in a statement.
Turkey is calling on world powers to impose a no-fly zone over northern Syria after regime airstrikes in the Idlib region killed 33 Turkish troops Thursday, and worsened a humanitarian crisis that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. It’s the highest death toll for Turkish forces since they first moved into Syria in 2016.
Turkey has been trying to block the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive which is aimed at capturing the last major rebel stronghold. The brutal military campaign has targeted hospitals and schools, and has worsened the misery of thousands of civilians fleeing the fighting.
NO-FLY, NO GO: When NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emerged from the meeting shortly after 6 a.m. Washington time, he made no mention of any no-fly zone, but said the NATO allies expressed their “full solidarity” and condemned “the continued indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia in Idlib province.”
“I call on them to stop their offensive, to respect international law and to back U.N. efforts for a peaceful solution,” he said.
REFUGEES ON THE MOVE: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered his border forces to stand down and allow refugees to cross into Turkey, and a senior Turkish official says Ankara would no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, according to Reuters.
The move was applauded by Refugees International, which advocates on behalf of displaced people. “If true, the move could provide a lifeline for the hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians fleeing a brutal and condemnable Syrian and Russian offensive in Idlib,” said the group’s president, Eric Schwartz. “And we would urge Turkey not to impose an arbitrary deadline on those seeking to escape the Russian-Syrian kill box.”
Turkey has already taken in more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and says it will not stop the new arrivals from moving on to Europe and other destinations.
“All refugees should enjoy freedom of movement, but we are also deeply concerned that those leaving Turkey will face a perilous journey across the sea to Greece — a journey that has claimed so many lives,” said Schwartz “The Greek government will need to move quickly to rescue and receive refugees that make the crossing.”