Foreign minister reiterates Turkey solidarity in Syria airstrikes aftermath

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Jarno Kuusinen/Prime Minister's Office, Finland

Estonia reaffirms solidarity with Turkey, a NATO ally, following the deaths of 33 Turkish Army personnel in a Syrian government airstrike in northwestern Syria.

As reported on ERR News, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) expressed his condolences over the losses and voiced his condenmnation, on behalf of the Estonian state, over the attack by forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Earlier strikes in the Idlib province had also killed civilians, which Reinsalu also condemned.

After a North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting convened on Friday at Turkey's request, Reinsalu said that the situation was currently extremely tense.

"Turkey has turned to the secretary-general of NATO for an extraordinary meeting of the NAC to be convened based on Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which triggers consultation over military matters when the security of any of the member states is threatened," he said, according to BNS.

"The meeting is presently in session; Turkish representatives are clarifying their perspective of the situation, and it is possible they might ask for some sort of aid from NATO, in addition to moral support. The nature of this aid can be discussed when the meeting has concluded," Reinsalu went on.

Estonia has held a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council since the beginning of the year. Syrian government forces in the civil war which started in 2011 are supported by the Russian Federation, with opposition forces supported by NATO member state Turkey. In addition, other fighters including those from ISIS/ISIL have been involved in the multi-sided conflict.

Possible ceasefires

Several ceasefire attempts have been made in Syria, none of which have held firm. Urmas Reinsalu said that, however, steps for rapidly ensuring ceasefire must be deliberated, and enumerated possible options on the table to achieve this.

"Establishing a no-fly corridor is one option. The extent of military power required for enforcing this ban is another issue, however. But we are consulting with our allies and we are definitely ready to tackle the issue in the UN Security Council," Reinsalu said, BNS reports.

The foreign minister also touched upon a joint statement by foreign ministers from 14 EU member states, calling for an immediate ceasefire and condemning the activities of the Assad regime.

Threat of Turkey opening borders

While an anonymous Turkish source made comments to the media to the effect that Turkey, already hosting huge numbers of Syrian refugees arising from the civil war, would open its land borders with the EU states of Greece and Bulgaria, this has not been confirmed officially, Reinsalu said.

"There is indeed this uncorroborated information [making that claim]; however insofar as our ambassador has been in contact with Turkish officials, the latter have not confirmed their authorities having taken this political step or having made any such decision," he said.

"From the perspective of the EU and Estonia as a member state, it is undoubtedly important that the agreement on Turkey managing the refugee flow, for which the EU has made a financial contribution to Turkey, should remain in place," he said.

"It is crucial that the EU monitor the situation and secure its external border," the minister noted.

A March 2016 deal between Brussels and Ankara saw Turkey agreeing to take back all illegal migrants in Europe, and the EU has made membership concessions to Turkey. Reports put the figure of Syrian refugees in Turkey at present at around 3.7 million.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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