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Turkish FM, European counterparts discuss Syria’s Idlib

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at the panel named "Syria Refugee Crisis" within the 1st Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland on December 16, 2019. [Bayram Altuğ/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish foreign minister on Friday held phone conversations with top European diplomats in the wake of the escalation of tensions after a Syrian regime attack martyred 33 Turkish soldiers on Thursday night, Anadolu Agency reports.

Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke over the phone with French, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Estonian and Ukrainian foreign ministers and the EU foreign policy chief via phone.

The foreign ministers offered condolences to the Turkish nation and families of the martyrs.

In a Twitter post, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the de-escalation remains key to effectively address challenges on ground.

“Human suffering and loss of life need to stop,” he said.

Stressing the relationships between the EU and Turkey, he said Turkey remains committed to the joint EU-Turkey Statement on refugees.

READ: Turkey kills over 300 Syria regime troops in retaliation to attack

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.

READ: Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed

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