Defense minister: Syria escalation no threat to Estonia ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa).
Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa). Source: ERR

While Estonia condemns a recent attack on Turkish troops by Syrian government forces in the northwestern Idlib province, the heightening of tensions does not mean any direct military threat to Estonia or the Baltic region, defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said Friday evening.

Luik added that Estonia stands by Turkey, reiterating condolences already sent by foreign affairs minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) to his Turkish opposite number, as well as stressing the need for normalization and the avoidance of a humanitarian crisis which could increase migratory pressures on Turkey, and possibly subsequently Europe.

"The Republic of Estonia fully condemns these attacks by the Assad regime, especially armed attacks on civilian objects. Certainly we are ready to maintain these issues on the [UN] Security Council, as I told a Turkish colleague today," the minister said, speaking to current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"The Republic of Estonia fully condemns these attacks by the Assad regime, especially armed attacks on civilian objects. Certainly we are ready to maintain these issues on the [UN] Security Council, as I told a Turkish colleague today," the minister said, speaking to current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"NATO must monitor the situation very closely and take all kinds of crisis management measures as are necessary. We are not talking here about military action, but rather support in the form of information sharing, radar systems, and much more," Luik said.

Estonia is in NATO, as is Turkey. Estonia currently holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which started at the beginning of this year and runs for two years.

From a broader perspective, it is worrying that the escalation of the conflict could draw in allies in the region, Luik said. In a recent report, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service (Välisluureamet ) noted that there was no immediate threat to Russia's military activities in Estonia's region, but if its largest ally, the US, were forced to commit itself militarily in another region of the world, this could prompt Russia to become more active, he felt.

Luik said that there is no such threat at the moment, adding that Estonian preparedness is sufficient and information on what is going on behind its eastern border is sufficient.

"At the moment, we do not have any information that Russia has something planned for Europe, or something for the Baltic countries. In this sense, we can be fully calm right now," Luik said.

Martin Hurt of the International Center for Defense Studies (ICDS), agreed with this line.

"I do not think that there is any immediate threat in our region right now which could start threatening the whole of Europe in terms of conventional warfare, but of course this situation needs to be clearly monitored," Hurt told "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Hurt added that Turkish and Russian leaders are likely to realize that, as the situation escalates, things will get out of control in Syria with potentially no end in sight.

Idlib is the last stronghold of fighters who have been trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian Civil War started in 2011, and has been targeted by his forces through the course of the week. Air strikes have killed dozens of civilians, as well as Turkish Army soldiers. Several cease-fire attempts have been made since the civil war began.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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