by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) July 3, 2012
Dozens of Syrian soldiers including top officers defected to neighbouring Turkey on Monday, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The 85 soldiers who fled include one general and other senior officials, the agency said, citing local officials.
The latest defections bring to 14 the number of Syrian generals to have crossed into Turkey, abandoning the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
The latest group of soldiers crossed into Turkey at Reyhanli, in the south of the country. They were part of a group of 293 people including many women and children.
Turkey is already sheltering more than 35,000 Syria refugees including many deserters from the country's military, which has been carrying out a crackdown on opposition protesters that has been condemned by Western powers.
Tension between the two countries has increased since Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet last month.
Syria has insisted the aircraft was in its territory when they shot it down, which Turkey has fiercely disputed. The two pilots have not been found.
On Sunday, Turkey scrambled fighter jets after Syrian helicopters flew close to the border.
NATO calls for 'political solution' in Syria
"The right response to this crisis remains a political response. And a concerted response by the international community against a regime that has lost all humanity and all legitimacy,' Rassmusen told a news conference.
Welcoming the weekend meeting of the Action Group on Syria in Geneva, the alliance head said "the international community has a duty to put an end" to the conflict "and to do it now".
World powers agreed on Saturday on a plan for a political transition in Syria that could include current regime members.
Russia and China insisted that Syrians must decide how the transition should be carried out rather than allow others to dictate their fate but the West does not see any role for President Bashar al-Assad in a new unity government.
"This conflict has already gone on for too long. It has cost too many lives, and put the stability of the whole region at risk," said Rasmussen.
But he reiterated that NATO has "no intention to intervene militarily".
He also said that "NATO has not received requests for deployment of military assets" and that "NATO as an alliance has no dialogue with opposition groups in Syria".
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