Syria has clarified that it regretted the deaths of innocent civilians in Wednesday’s cross-border mortar fire incident but had not apologised to Turkey as it was yet to ascertain the identity of those who had carried out the attack.

Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations Security Council Bashar Al-Jafari told the El-Nashra website on Thursday that the Syrian government had not send any apology letter to the Turkish government.

His assertion contradicted the claim of the Turkish deputy Prime Minister, Besir Atalay that Syria “has admitted it was responsible for the shelling that killed five civilians on Turkish soil and has apologised”. Mr. Atalay had further added that Syria had given an assurance that “such an incident would not be repeated".

On his part, Mr. Jafari asserted that “the Syrian government is working on investigating the accident and not on apologising”. He alluded to the official statement issued by the Syrian information minister Omran Al- Zoabi, which did not include any apology. He also read out a letter to reporters in New York, which urged Turkey and its other neighbours to "act wisely, rationally and responsibly" and to prevent cross-border infiltration of "terrorists and insurgents" and the smuggling of arms, the Associated Press reported. Mr. Jafari stressed that Syria would not accept double standards on the ground rules for extending apologies. “We have waited one year and eight months for the Turkish government to present an apology over its acts in Syria. It is a tragic development that a Turkish woman was killed with her three children, and we sympathise with that with all what it takes because she is an innocent Turkish citizen”.

He was also emphatic in saying that “we (Syria) did not hear from the Turkish side any sympathy or solidarity with the innocent Syrian citizens who were killed in the terror explosions of Aleppo.

Therefore, we must be fair in our approaches". Mr. Jafari was referring to Wednesday’s four suicide bombings that had rocked a prominent square in the heart of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, killing at least 31 people and injuring scores. The powerful blasts had also torn down the facades of some buildings and completely destroyed others.

The Syrian ambassador said that his government had delivered a letter to the Security Council seeking its condemnation for four the Aleppo suicide bombings. But he lamented that the council once again has been unable to condemn "these suicide terrorist attacks". Mr. Jafari did not rule out the possibility of the mortar firing being a false-flag attack, carried out by vested interests who would want Syria and Turkey to be drawn into a war. He pointed out that “in that region there are many groups that are interested in creating conflict between Syria and Turkey”.

As tensions between Turkey and Syria escalated, thousands of people converged at Istanbul’s famed Taksim square to hold a strong anti-war rally. The peace activists chanted: "No to war! Peace now! We won't be soldiers of imperialists!"

Some of the banners mocked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being a stooge of the U.S. BBC quoted Bedri Baykam, a Turkish artist and activist as saying: "[The] United States wants Turkey to enter war against Syria because there are elections coming in the United States. Obama doesn't want to send American troops so the Turkish army serves as their tool but we don't want to be part of the bloodshed in the Middle East." Smaller anti-war protests have also been reported from other Turkish cities and towns including Izmir.

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