The United States said Monday it was “absolutely outraged” by Syria’s apparent attack on a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the border.
“We strongly condemn any attack by the Syrian regime on refugees in bordering countries. We are absolutely outraged by today’s report,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Turkish officials briefing Washington believe “the regime knew that it was firing across the border, that it was pursuing activists and that these were intentional acts,” she said, adding consultations with the Turks about the incident were continuing.
“We join the Turkish government in calling for the Syrian regime to immediately cease fire,” Nuland said after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed last month to a U.N.-brokered ceasefire plans.
She said the “incident is yet another indication that the Assad regime does not seem at all willing to meet the commitments it has made to Kofi Annan,” the United Nations and Arab League envoy who presented Assad with the truce plan.
Tension escalated on Monday between Turkey and Syria after shots fired from across the border injured six people in a Turkish refugee camp, angering Ankara a day before a visit by Annan.
Four Syrians and two Turks were wounded amid clashes between rebels and Syrian army forces on the other side of the border, the governor of Kilis province where the camp is located told Anatolia news agency.
It was the first time Syrian fire from across the border had hurt people on Turkish soil, prompting Turkey’s foreign ministry to urgently contact the Syrian mission in Ankara to “immediately halt the shootings,” a source said.
The attack came after 21 injured Syrians were brought across the border into Turkey, 17 of them wounded in an overnight clash in their village of Sucu in Aleppo province, situated close to the border.
Nuland also dismissed Syrian demands for written guarantees that rebels would lay down arms as a stalling tactic.
The Syrian army is scheduled to withdraw from protest cities on Tuesday under the peace deal, with a complete end to fighting set for 48 hours later. Assad over the weekend demanded written guarantees from his foes that they would stop fighting and lay down arms- a demand they immediately rejected.
Nor did government forces show any sign they were starting to pull back.
“This is just another way to stall for time,” Nuland said.
“April 10 has become void,” Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said in Ankara, referring to the deadline.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in Brussels that adding new conditions was totally unacceptable.
China, which has supported Assad in his year-long effort to crush the uprising against his family’s dynastic rule, called on both sides to honor the ceasefire and support Annan’s efforts.
Russia, which has defended him in the U.N. Security Council and remains Assad’s most important ally, stopped short of pressing him to rein in his army.
“Attempts to force a solution on Syria from outside will lead only to an escalation of tension,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said. “Everything must follow from respect for Syria’s sovereignty, and violence must be stopped.”
Middle East specialist Augustus Richard Norton of Boston University said the collapse of the ceasefire was unsurprising.
“The Syrian regime does not understand compromise. Its ethos is ‘rule or die,” he told Reuters in Beirut.
“Therefore, Syria will continue its inexorable slide into full-scale civil war, especially since the chance for effective foreign intervention to stop the bloodletting is also zero.”