Turkey recalls ambassador to Syria and closes embassy

 

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Syria and closed its embassy in Damascus, citing the worsening security situation in the country.

Activities at the embassy in the Syrian capital are being “temporarily suspended”, but Turkey's consulate in Aleppo will remain operational, a brief statement posted on the embassy's website said.

The embassy is being closed because of the poor security situation in Syria, a ministry official said. The Turkish ambassador and other diplomats will be returning to Turkey, he added.

The move comes two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was on the brink of breaking diplomatic ties with Syria and withdrawing its ambassador.

The UN says more than 8,000 people, many of them civilian protesters, have been killed since Syria's President Bashar Assad launched a crackdown on the opposition a year ago.

Turkey, which shares a 566-mile (911km) border with Syria, has said it cannot ignore the atrocities on its doorstep and is seeking ways to stem the violence and push Mr Assad towards leaving power.

Mr Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria with US President Barack Obama yesterday before a nuclear security meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

After the meeting, US officials said America and other key allies are considering providing Syrian rebels with communications help, medical aid and other “non-lethal” assistance.

Next Sunday, that issue is expected to be a key focus of a so-called Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul involving countries which are trying to quell the violence.

About 17,000 Syrians refugees who have fled the violence are now in Turkey, many in temporary refugee camps. Turkey is also allowing Syrian civilian and army defectors to shelter and regroup on its territory.

Syrian activists said troops were shelling rebel-held areas in the central city of Homs today and at least five people had been seriously injured.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees have been reporting shelling in Homs for days as President Assad's forces appear to be preparing for an operation to retake rebel-held neighbourhoods in Syria's third largest city.

The Observatory said today's shelling in the central area of Warsheh seriously wounded five civilians.

Homs has been one of the cities hardest hit by the government crackdown on the uprising that began last March. Mr Assad's forces overran the rebel-held Baba Amr neighbourhood on March 1 but face resistance from other districts.

AP

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