Turkey has banned all Syrian aircraft from its air space as it takes an increasingly firm stance against President Bashar al-Assad regime, while Iran gave U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi a proposal on the Syrian conflict.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday that Turkish air space had been closed to Syrian planes. Syria banned Turkish planes from flying over its territory on Saturday.
“We made a new decision yesterday and informed Syria. We closed our air space to civilian Syrian flights as well as military flights,” Reuters reported Davutoglu as saying.
NATO-member Turkey has increasingly taken on a leadership role in the international coalition ranked against Assad.
Turkish confrontation with Syria increased in the past two weeks because of cross-border shelling and escalated on Oct. 10 when Ankara forced down a Syrian airliner en route from Moscow, accusing it of carrying Russian munitions for Assad’s military.
Russia has said there were no weapons on the ground plane and that it was carrying a legal cargo of radar. But it moved to cool friction with Ankara - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the incident would not hurt “solid” relations.
Russia-Turkey ties not hurt
However, Russia’s Foreign Minister suggested on Sunday that Moscow-Ankara ties are not hurt, state-run Russian news agency RIA reported.
“I assure you, nobody should worry about the state of Russian-Turkish relations,” RIA quoted Sergei Lavrov as saying in Luxembourg. “They are developing on a stable and solid foundation.”
Meanwhile, Assad’s regime staunch ally, Iran, has given some proposal to find an exit strategy for the Syrian crisis.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran had “handed its unofficial detailed proposal in writing aimed at solving the Syrian crisis” to Brahimi as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in comments broadcast on Arabic-language Al-Alam television.
He did not go into details about the proposals, only adding Tehran would support efforts by the international envoy.
Brahimi, who arrived in Tehran from Turkey after meeting with Saudi officials, welcomed the Iranian initiative.
“I thank you for the proposals and as I told you there are some ideas in your proposals which can help by adding to that forwarded by other nations who are also important with regards to the Syrian situation,” AFP reported Brahimi as saying in a joint press briefing.
“We hope all these ideas gather into a project to put an end to the Syrian people’s nightmare.
“I am repeating the call by the United Nations secretary general (Ban Ki-moon) for the initiation of a ceasefire by the Syrian government and asking the opposition to reciprocate once the government commenced,” he added.
Brahimi is due to meet top security official Saeed Jalili on Monday before leaving for Baghdad later that day, the website of state television reported.
Fighters make gains
In Syria fighting continues with around 194 people were reported being killed across Syria on Sunday, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said.
But Syrian fighters against Assad regime said on Sunday that they had made more gains in a key province near the Turkish border.
Combat has been reported nationwide but the crucial strategic battles are being fought in an arc through western Syria, where most of the population lives.
Fighters surrounded an army garrison on Sunday near a northwestern town, in the latest push to seize more territory near the border with Turkey, opposition activists said. Fighters also posted video on the Internet purportedly showing a fighter jet they had shot down in the area the previous day.
Several hundred soldiers were trapped in the siege of a base in Urum al-Sughra, on the main road between the contested city of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, and Turkey.
"Fighters attacked an armoured column sent from Aleppo to rescue the 46th Regiment at Urum al-Sughra and stopped it in its tracks," Firas Fuleifel, one of the activists told Reuters by phone from Idlib province, west of Aleppo. He said the jet was shot down while trying to provide air support to the column.
As death toll mounts, New York-based Human Rights Watch said cluster bombs were dropped from planes and helicopters near the main north-south highway running through Maarat al-Numan, a town fighters seized last week cutting the route from Damascus to Aleppo.