Turkey has closed its embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said, as the security situation in Syria “deteriorated further” in the country.
“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, according to reports carried by AFP news agency.
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.
Last week the ministry called on all Turkish citizens in neighboring Syria to return to Turkey as soon as possible, saying it planned to close the consular section of its Damascus embassy.
Thousands of Syrians have been escaping Assad’s forces, seeking shelter in tents at the Hatay province at the Turkey-Syria border on a daily basis.
The total figure of Syrian refugees registered at the camps set up to provide refuge in Hatay has reached 12,519, a Turkish government official said earlier this month.