In call with Erdogan, Trump calls for de-escalation in Syria to prevent ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

In call with Erdogan, Trump calls for de-escalation in Syria to prevent ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

US President Donald Trump, in a call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, backed de-escalation of violence in northwestern Syria and called on the Syrian government, Russia and Iran to halt their offenses, the White House said.

“Trump reaffirmed his support for Turkey’s efforts to de-escalate the situation in northwest Syria and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said, following the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in an attack by Russian-backed Syrian forces in Syria’s Idlib province.

“The two leaders agreed that the Syrian regime, Russia, and the Iranian regime must halt their offensive before more innocent civilians are killed and displaced,” Deere added in the statement.

The Turkish communications directorate earlier said on Twitter the two leaders discussed developments in the region and agreed by phone on the need to take additional steps to deal with the humanitarian drama in Idlib, where nearly 1 million people have been displaced by the latest fighting.

Hundreds of migrants in Turkey, meanwhile, continued arriving on the borders with Greece and Bulgaria on Friday after a senior Turkish official said on Thursday that Ankara would no longer abide by a 2016 EU deal and stop refugees from reaching Europe.

Turkey’s decision to make good on long-standing threats by President Tayyip Erdogan to “open the gates” to Europe came after the Turkish troops were killed in Idlib.

Some one million civilians have been displaced in Syria near Turkey since December as Russian-backed Syrian government forces seized territory from Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the nine-year war.

Turkey already hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot handle any more. [Reuters]

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