Turkey shuts its embassy in Damascus

March 26, 2012 at 6:18 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, March 26 (UPI) -- Turkey closed its embassy in Damascus, Syria, and recalled its ambassador because of deteriorating security in the embattled country, Turkish officials said.

The ambassador, Omer Onhon, and other Turkish diplomats were set to arrive in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman said.

Turkey's consulate in the Syrian city of Aleppo will remain open, a statement on the Turkish Foreign Ministry's Web site said.

At least 70 people were killed in Syria Sunday, CNN reported, quoting the Local Coordination Committee opposition group.

A report published by Human Rights Watch Monday accused Syrian government forces of using civilians as human shields in northern Syria.

The report said witnesses from the Idlib governate told the human rights group they saw civilians forced to march in front of advancing military troops.

"By using civilians as human shields, the Syrian army is showing blatant disregard for their safety," said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The Syrian army should immediately stop this abhorrent practice."

Turkey is planning a "Friends of Syria" meeting Sunday for Arab and Western government officials to discuss ways to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to halt the violence, the newspaper said.

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