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German FM praises Turkey's restraint on Syria

Germany’s foreign minister has called on Turkey to continue to exercise restraint in its dealings with Syria. Tensions between the two countries have been heightened over a number of recent incidents.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle used a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu to praise Ankara for its measured response to Syrian shells that have recently landed across the border on Turkish soil, including one that killed five civilians.

"So far Turkey has been very level-headed," Westerwelle said. "That's not to be taken for granted."

He also reiterated Germany's solidarity with its NATO ally. "Turkey is not alone," he said.

Davutoglu thanked Westerwelle for Berlin's support, but at the same time pledged that any further breaches of Turkey's border would be “met with action.”

Watch video 01:35

Westerwelle expresses support for Turkey

Westerwelle also expressed support for a controversial move over the past week, when Turkish air force jets intercepted a civilian Syrian jet that had entered its air space and forced it to land. Turkish officials then searched the plane, which had been on its way from Russia to Damascus, and seized what they said was military equipment. The Kremlin denied that there were any weapons on the aircraft.

The German foreign minister said Turkey had acted within its rights.

"Turkey doesn't have to sit back and allow weapons to be moved through its air space to Syria," Westerwelle said. "Had a similar situation arisen in Germany, we would have responded the same way."

Davutoglu and Westerwelle also met with the UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Turkish rebuke for the UN

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a speech to a conference in Istanbul on Saturday to criticize the United Nations for its lack of action to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

"The UN Security Council has not intervened in the human tragedy that has been going on in Syria for 20 months, despite all our efforts," Erdogan said. "There's an attitude that encourages, gives the green light to (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to kill tens or hundreds of people every day."

Russia and China have repeatedly used their vetoes on the UN Security Council to block resolutions condemning the Assad regime.

In a further sign of the growing tensions between the two neighboring countries, Syria announced late on Saturday that it was banning Turkish passenger flights from travelling through its airspace.

The official news agency SANA said in a statement that the decision had come "in accordance with the principle of reciprocity," an apparent reference the interception of one of its aircraft.

pfd/ch (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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