Turkey shuts embassy in Damascus: diplomat
ANKARA - Agence France- Presse
Visitors are seen in front of the Omayyid mosque in old Damascus, Syria, Thursday, March 22, 2012. AP Photo
Turkey closed its embassy in Damascus on Monday because of deteriorating security conditions in Syria, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
"Activities at the Turkish embassy have been suspended from this morning," the source said on condition of anonymity, adding that all diplomatic personnel have left the Syrian capital.
Ankara has become increasingly strident in its criticism of its one-time ally over a brutal crackdown on protests in Syria that activists say has left more than 9,000 people dead since March last year.
Turkey has called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and imposed a number of sanctions on Damascus, while emerging as the main haven for Syrian opposition groups rebel fighters.
It is due to host a "Friends of Syria" conference in Istanbul on April 1 to pressure the Damascus regime following a first such meeting in Tunis last month attended by leading officials from Western and Arab countries.
Despite the closure of the embassy, Turkey's consulate in the northern city of Aleppo will remain open, the diplomatic source said.
A number of countries have already closed their embassies in Damascus, including the United States, some EU members and the Arab monarchies of the Gulf.