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Norway, Turkey close embassies in Syria

Turkey and Norway on Monday closed their embassies in Damascus, citing the worsening security situation in Syria.

Turkey's move comes two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country, once close to Damascus and now one of its most vocal critics, was on the brink of breaking diplomatic ties.

Activities at the Turkish embassy in the Syrian capital are being "temporarily suspended," but Turkey's consulate in Aleppo will remain operational, a brief statement posted on the embassy's website said Sunday night. The country also called back its ambassador and other diplomats as relations between the former allies continue to deteriorate.

The embassy is being closed because of the poor security situation in Syria, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry regulations.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said his country has closed its embassy until further notice, but that a Norwegian diplomat will continue to work in Syria through the Danish embassy.

The diplomat will "uphold contacts with political actors and report about the development" in Syria, he said.

Other countries including the U.S., France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have also closed embassies. This and other forms of diplomatic pressure have left Damascus isolated, but have so far failed to stop the year-old Syria crisis, in which the U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed since Syrian President Bashar Assad launched his crackdown on the opposition a year ago.

Turkey, which shares a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria, has said it cannot ignore the atrocities on its doorstep and is seeking ways to stem the violence and push Assad toward leaving power.

Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria with President Barack Obama on Sunday before a nuclear security meeting in Seoul, South Korea. After the meeting, U.S. officials said the United States and other key allies are considering providing Syrian rebels with communications help, medical aid and other "non-lethal" assistance. On Sunday, that issue is expected to be a key focus of a so-called Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul involving countries that are trying to quell the violence.

About 17,000 Syrians refugees who have fled the violence are now in Turkey, many in temporary refugee camps. Turkey also is allowing Syrian civilian and army defectors to shelter and regroup on its territory.