BORIS Johnson will today issue an appeal for Nato unity amid increasing strains within the Western alliance over the conflict in Syria.

The Prime Minister will break off from the election campaign to host a gathering in London of Nato leaders, marking the alliance’s 70th anniversary.

The Nato summit takes place amid a bitter row between French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria.

It emerged at least nine people, including eight children were killed yesterday when Turkish artillery shells landed near a school in a Kurdish-held town.

A further 13 civilians died in a suspected Syrian government air strike on a market in a rebel-held town. The violence is part of rising tension in Syria’s north, along the border with Turkey.

Government troops have renewed their push to reclaim the last opposition stronghold in Idlib province while Turkey, which sees Syrian Kurdish fighters as an existential threat, has been widening its military operations there to push them away from its borders.

Macron infuriated Ankara when he suggested Nato was suffering from “brain death” over the lack of co-ordination over Turkey’s “crazy” attack on the Kurds, seen as a key Western ally in the fight against Daesh.

Erdogan, who has long sought a free hand against the Kurds, hit back accusing Macron of “a sick and shallow understanding” of terrorism.

Johnson is expected to try to play peacemaker when he hosts the two leaders, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for talks in Downing Street ahead of the main gathering. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM’s position is that Nato is the most enduring and successful alliance in military history and that it continues to adapt to the evolving threats that we face. It is the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security and it helps to keep a billion people safe.

“The PM will emphasise that all members must be united behind shared priorities so Nato can adapt to the challenges ahead.”

Turkey invaded Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria in October after US President Donald Trump effectively gave Erdogan the green light – to the dismay of other Western capitals as well as many in Washington.

It was widely seen to have strengthened both the Russian position in Syria and that of the Assad regime while triggering a fresh humanitarian crisis. There was further alarm among alliance members when Erdogan chose to purchase Russian air defence systems, seen as a further weakening of his commitment to the alliance.

Trump is also among the Nato leaders attending the two-day gathering.