Report: Turkey closes airspace to military cargo flights to Syria

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced after a meeting with US President Barack Obama that Turkey will impose sanctions on Syria. (Photo: Reuters)

September 22, 2011, Thursday/ 10:38:00

Turkey has closed its airspace to planes carrying military equipment to neighboring Syria, a news report said on Thursday.

The report, published in the mass-circulation daily Hürriyet, said the ban was imposed after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Tuesday that Turkey was considering imposing sanctions on Syria in coordination with the US. Erdoğan was speaking in New York after a meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has gradually toughened its criticism against the Syrian regime over its brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests. Erdoğan said in New York that Turkey has already prepared for sanctions against Syria and added that the Turkish foreign minister and the US secretary of state will jointly work on what those Turkish sanctions may entail.

Erdoğan also said he has ended all contact with the Syrian government, lamenting that the actions of the Syrian regime have forced Turkey to take such a decision. Speaking on Wednesday, a senior White House official said Erdoğan and Obama agreed during their meeting to build up pressure on Assad to produce a result that would meet the demands of the Syrian people.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House, told reporters that Turkish and US assessments over the need to intensify pressure on the Assad regime overlap, which she said is very important. She added that the two leaders shared the view that Assad's regime is doing the Syrian people harm as well as agreeing on the need to build up pressure on Assad.

Sherwood-Randall added that Erdoğan and Obama have had close consultations about Syria over the past few months.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, meanwhile, told reporters on Wednesday that the important thing is that the two leaders shared a view that the Assad regime is doing the Syrian people harm and their similar view to build up pressure on Assad.

Rhodes said Turkey remains an important partner for the US to relay to the Syrian leadership the message that it should halt violence against its own people.

“Turkey sent clear messages over the past few days. Erdoğan delivered very strong messages during his North African tour,” Rhodes said, expressing the belief that he is ready to devise ways to build up pressure on the Assad regime.

Sherwood-Randall noted that Turkey's relations with Israel came up during the meeting between Obama and Erdoğan and that Obama voiced his wish for a settlement of the tensions between the two countries.

Rhodes said both countries are important allies for the US and their relations are crucial to the stability of the region, and expressed the belief that it is important that steps be taken to ease tensions in the region.

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