Turkey closes embassy in Syria, recalls ambassador

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March 26, 2012, 2:16 p.m. | World — by Associated Press

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, stands with Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their bilateral meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March, 25, 2012.
© AP

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Monday closed its embassy in Damascus and called back its ambassador to Syria, citing a 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 Sunday night.

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

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 U.N. 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 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria, has said it cannot ignore the atrocities on its doorstep and is seeking ways to stem the violence and push Assad toward leaving power.

Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria with President Barack Obama on Sunday before a nuclear security meeting in Seoul, South Korea. After the meeting, U.S. officials said the United States and other key allies are considering providing Syrian rebels with communications help, medical aid and other "non-lethal" assistance. On Sunday, that issue is expected to be a key focus of a so-called Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul involving countries that 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 also is allowing Syrian civilian and army defectors to shelter and regroup on its territory.
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