Turkey closes Syria embassy


US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their bilateral meeting in Seoul on March 25, 2012 on the eve of the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.


Jewel Samad

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Turkey on Monday recalled its ambassador to Syria, further isolating the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who once counted Turkey among friendly countries, the Associated Press reported. Turkey, led by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has loudly criticized the Syrian government for its crackdown on protesters and opposition forces.

Reuters said Turkey was "once a close ally of Assad," but has since pivoted to support the Syrian opposition. 

Ankara's consulate in Aleppo, Syria's commercial center, will remain open. But the ambassador has been called back to Turkey. The diplomatic cutoff came two days after Erdogan threatened to end diplomatic relations with Syria.

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The New York Times wrote that as "a regional player," Turkey's move "seemed to tilt the diplomatic balance further toward President Assad’s opponents" before a "Friends of Syria" conference to be hosted in Istanbul on April 1.

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In addition to diplomatic moves, Turkey reportedly will also send "nonlethal" aid to Syrian opposition groups, according to the Times.