U.S. Senator Rubio calls on NATO to send Turkey air defences

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has called on NATO to boost Turkey’s position in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province by providing it with intelligence support and air defences.

The Florida Republican senator tweeted that the Atlantic alliance should also provide NGOs with financial support to deal with the huge numbers of Syrians who have been displaced by the Syrian government’s offensive in Syria.

Turkey launched a military operation in Idlib after an attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed dozens of Turkish troops in the province last week.

But the Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian air power and paramilitary groups sent by Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, had been pounding rebel-held areas in Idlib for months, forcing nearly a million civilians to take shelter in makeshift camps near the border with Turkey.

The Syrian and Russian jets were grounded for days after Turkey launched its operation, but began bombing targets in Idlib again this week. Turkey does not have an operational, up-to-date air defence system, and has reportedly been using advanced radar jamming units in conjunction with its F-16 fighter jets to shoot down Syrian fighter jets.

Rubio said Russia should “get Assad to withdraw his forces encircling Turkish observation posts” in the province, referring to four of 12 points manned by Turkish soldiers that marked the boundaries of a de-escalation zone agreed by Russia and Turkey in a deal negotiated in Sochi in 2018.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan travelled to Moscow on Thursday morning for talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in which the Turkish leader hopes to negotiate a new ceasefire.