The government of Turkey urged its citizens to leave Syria and return home, one year after the uprising in that country has killed at least 8,000 people.
Developments in Syria pose serious security risks for our nationals, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Therefore it is strongly recommended that Turkish nationals currently in Syria leave and return home.
The foreign ministry in Ankara also said it'll significantly scale back consular services in Damascus on March 22. However, the Turkish consulate in the city of Aleppo will remain open.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (once a close ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad) has said that once all Turks in Syria have returned, he'll consider withdrawing the Turkish ambassador from Damascus.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also said they're shutting down their embassies in Damascus
Meanwhile, thousands of Syrians have fled into Turkey, where Erdogan has recommended the creation of “safe zones” along the border.
Separately, Syrian rebel forces are requesting military aid from western nations --however, the French foreign minister has rejected such measures, warning that an armed conflict would lead to a horrific civil war.
The Syrian people are deeply divided, and if we give arms to a certain faction of the Syrian opposition, we would make a civil war among Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites, Alain Juppe said on the radio Thursday.
Juppe added that he's seeking diplomatic avenues to remove Assad from power.
Indeed, the United States, along with France, are apparently unwilling to launch another Libya-style military campaign in Syria. U.S. President Barack Obama has similarly warned that a military operation in Syria would worsen the catastrophe and cost many more lives.
However, Syrian opposition groups, some of whom are now based in Turkey or Western Europe, feel they're running out of time.
We are waiting for the international community to act and not talk. That means do what it takes in Syria, Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun said at a rally from his Paris exile.
Russia, which has adamantly opposed any new sanctions against Syria and also warned against foreign military intervention to oust Assad, has nonetheless offered to help former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan in his endeavors to end the violence in Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Sergey Lavrov spoke with Annan by phone and expressed his support for the envoy's mission, noting that Russia would provide him with active assistance.”
Annan, who met with Assad over the past weekend and delivered his peace proposals, is scheduled to make a speech before the UN Security Council on the crisis in Syria on Friday.
It is urgent to break the cycle of violence, stop military operations against civilians and prevent a further militarization of the conflict in Syria, said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.
The UN added, There is strong and growing evidence that crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria.