The presidents of Turkey and Russia have spoken over the phone to try to defuse tensions after 33 Turkish troops were killed in an air strike blamed on the Syrian government.

It comes as a new wave of refugees headed for the Greek land and sea border after Turkey said it would no longer hold them back.

The attack marked the deadliest day for the Turkish military since Ankara first entered the Syrian conflict in 2016 and was also the most serious escalation between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces.

READ MORE: Sarah Glynn: Why the Kurds were branded 'terrorists'

It was not clear whether Syrian or Russia jets carried out the strike, but Turkey blamed Syria’s government and Russia denied responsibility.

Nato envoys held emergency talks at the request of Turkey, a Nato member. Turkey’s 28 allies also expressed their condolences over the deaths and urged de-escalation, but no additional Nato support was offered.

Apart from providing some aerial surveillance over Syria, Nato plays no direct role in the conflict, but its members are deeply divided over Turkey’s actions there.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson urged to help end humanitarian catastrophe in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has long threatened to “open the gates” for millions to flee to Europe unless more international support was provided.

Greece and Bulgaria have increased security at their borders with Turkey in preparation for the arrival of the refugees.

Thursday’s attack sharply raised the risk of direct military confrontation between Turkey and Russia, although Turkish officials blamed Syria for the air strike.

READ MORE: Syrian troops regain key territory from rebels in Aleppo

In their phone call, Mr Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed implementing agreements in Idlib, the Kremlin said. Fahrettin Altun, Mr Erdogan’s director of communications, said they had agreed to meet “as soon as possible”.

Mr Erdogan also talked with German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Donald Trump, who both called for the Syrian government and its supporters to stop their offensive and for a de-escalation to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters he is talking with Russia and Turkey, appealing for a ceasefire in Idlib, but “we are not yet there”.