Syria has clarified that it regretted the deaths of innocent civilians in Wednesday’s cross-border mortar fire 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 U.N. 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 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 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 that 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.

‘Double standards’

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.”

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!”