U.N. chief urges Turkey to keep communicating with Syria

UNITED NATIONS Wed Oct 3, 2012 5:00pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Turkey on Wednesday to keep open all channels of communication with the Syrian government after a mortar bomb from Syria struck a Turkish town and killed at least five people.

Turkey said it had struck targets inside Syria on Wednesday in response to the mortar fire and Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called the situation "very worrying." He said the crisis was raised briefly during a meeting of the 15-nation Security Council devoted to other issues.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that Ban spoke with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and "encouraged the minister to keep open all channels of communications with the Syrian authorities with a view to lessening any tension that could build up as a result of the incident."

That statement was issued before Turkey's announcement that it had struck targets inside Syria.

In a second statement issued shortly after Turkey's announcement, Ban urged the Syrian government to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors and warned that the 18-month-long conflict in Syria was increasingly harming other countries in the region.

"The Secretary-General calls on the Syria Government to respect fully the territorial integrity of its neighbors as well as to end the violence against the Syrian people," Ban's press office said in a statement.

"Today's incidents, where firing from Syria struck a Turkish town, again demonstrated how Syria's conflict is threatening not only the security of the Syrian people but increasingly causing harm to its neighbors," it said.

The statement called on all sides in the Syrian conflict to work towards peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Asked about the incident on the Turkish-Syrian border, Lyall Grant told reporters: "It's very worrying, and it was raised and discussed briefly in the council this afternoon."

He added that the council was now awaiting a letter from Turkey on the incident before it considered possible moves.

The 15-member council was already in a meeting to discuss other issues when Turkey announced it had struck targets in Syria. It is the most serious cross-border escalation of the Syria uprising, which began as peaceful pro-democracy protests.

When asked if the Security Council would get involved, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters: "We'll wait to see."

The council has been deadlocked on the Syria for more than a year. Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and China have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad's government and rejected the idea of imposing sanctions.

Separately, a NATO official said ambassadors from the alliance were to meet on Wednesday evening in Brussels to discuss the deadly mortar incident.

On Monday, Syria's foreign minister accused Turkey, the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of arming and funding rebels intent on toppling Assad.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and David Brunnstrom)

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