Ankara's decision to buy S-400 air defence systems from Russia has caused "very serious concern" in Washington as it considers how to help Turkey in its operation in Syria's Idlib province, US special representative for Syria James Jeffrey was quoted by Reuters as saying.
At the same time, the envoy noted that the US has already offered Ankara humanitarian assistance and information sharing, but didn't clarify whether Turkey has accepted the offers. Jeffrey further shared that the US is also pressuring its allies in Europe to extend help for Turkey's operation in Syria.
Previously, the envoy said that the US was considering supplying Turkish troops in Syria with ammunition in addition to providing humanitarian assistance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later confirmed that he had requested such help from Washington during his talks with his US counterpart Donald Trump.
However, Washington chose to stop short of providing direct military assistance to Ankara, with Secretary of Defence Mark Esper stating on 2 March that the US would not be providing air support to Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield.
The offensive, which is targeted at Syrian troops, was initiated by Ankara after some of its forces were caught in the line of fire when the Syrian Army responded to attacks by the Idlib-based terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham*. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Turkish troops were not supposed to be present at the locations where they came under fire.
The situation in Idlib deteriorated after local terrorist groups intensified their attacks on the Syrian Army in violation of ceasefire agreements. The Russian Ministry of Defence noted that some of these attacks against Syrian forces were supported by Turkish artillery fire.
Ankara claims that its goal in Idlib is to enforce the 2018 Sochi agreements on a demilitarised zone after alleged violations by Damascus, which was responding to attacks by militants. In turn, Moscow slammed Ankara for not fulfilling its part of the Sochi obligations by failing to differentiate between terrorist groups and the so-called moderate opposition in Idlib province.
*Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or al-Qaeda in Syria) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia