Joining Western powers, Turkey cuts Syria ties

Joining Western powers, Turkey cuts Syria ties

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Joining Western powers, Turkey cuts Syria ties

Mourners attend the funeral two boys who were reportedly killed in the shelling in Idlib, Syria. UN observers say they discovered 13 bound corpses in eastern Syria. ABACAPRESS photo

Turkey has asked Syria to withdraw all its diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Ankara within 72 hours, joining Western powers in a protest against the massacre of more than 100 civilians in Houla. Ankara also warned of “further measures” if Damascus fails to stop the bloodshed and open the way for a democratic transition.

The Turkish government could extend measures against the Syrian regime in the coming days, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters yesterday without giving details. International measures against Syria since the killings in Houla are a “display of sensitivity” on the issue, Erdoğan said. “We cannot remain silent. Staying quite, giving consent to cruelty is also cruelty.”

Erdoğan said he believed those who stayed close to the Syrian regime would not be able to continue. “It would be self-denial. Nobody could tolerate that.”

Asked if Turkey was considering a “buffer zone” on Turkish-Syrian border, the prime minister said the Turkish government had not yet made any decision on the issue. “That is a step we could take depending on future developments,” he said.

Ankara ordered “Syria’s charge d’affaires in Ankara and all other diplomatic personnel to leave our country within 72 hours as of May 30, 2012,” a foreign ministry statement said Wednesday.

“It is out of the question for us to remain silent and not respond to this action, which constitutes a crime against humanity,” the statement said. Syria’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday and was notified of the government’s decision, it added.

Meanwhile, Ankara is reducing the number of its staff at the consulate in Aleppo, which remains Turkey’s sole functioning diplomatic mission in Syria. “Five diplomats returned to Turkey just before the [expulsion] decision. More will be returning soon and only a minimum number of personnel will stay to take care of the needs of Turkish nationals,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Ankara’s expulsion decision does not cover the Syrian consulates in Turkey, the diplomat said. The consulate in Istanbul will continue to function, while the one in Gaziantep has already been closed by Syria itself.

The Syrian diplomats in Ankara will leave by Saturday, a Syrian embassy official confirmed yesterday.
 Western powers, including the United States, Britain, France and Australia, expelled the highest ranking Syrian diplomats in their countries on May 29 in a bid to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

 The coordinated expulsions followed mounting international outrage over the massacre in the central town of Houla, in which at least 108 people, including 49 children, were killed, according to U.N. figures.