Turkey urges U.N. to protect refugees inside Syria
29 August 2012, 17:58
Ankara - Turkey
urged the United Nations on Wednesday to protect displaced Syrians
inside their country but President Bashar al-Assad, battling rebels
determined to overthrow him, dismissed talk of a buffer zone on Syrian
Ankara fears a mass influx such as the flight of half a million
Iraqi Kurds into Turkey after the 1991 Gulf War, and has floated the
idea of a "safe zone" under foreign protection within Syria for
civilians fleeing intensifying violence.
"We expect the United Nations to engage on the topic of
protecting refugees inside Syria and if possible sheltering them in
camps there," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
France has supported Turkey's call for a safe zone in Syria, and
pressure for action increased after the United Nations refugee agency
said on Tuesday Syria's refugee exodus was accelerating. Up to 200,000
people could settle in Turkey alone if the conflict worsens, the UNHCR
"When we talk about figures in the hundreds of thousands, this
problem no longer remains a problem of an internal conflict in any one
country but becomes an international dangerous problem," said Davutoglu.
But the United States and other Western allies have shown little
enthusiasm to provide the military and aerial support to police a no-fly
zone which would most likely be needed to implement Turkey's proposal.
Assad, in his first television interview since a bomb attack
killed four of his top security officials on July 18, brushed off the
idea of international intervention.
"I believe that talk about a buffer zone is not practical, even
for those countries which are playing a hostile role (against Syria),"
Assad said, according to excerpts of an interview with Syria's Addounia
TV broadcast on Wednesday.
Assad also took a swipe at Turkey's government which once cultivated
good relations with Assad but turned against him over his violent
response to the uprising in which at least 18,000 people have been
killed, according to the United Nations.
"Will we go backwards because of the ignorance of some Turkish
officials? ... (The Turkish people) have stood by us during the crisis,"
Turkey already hosts more than 80,000 refugees and the UNHCR said
up to 5,000 people a day had crossed the Turkish border in the last two
weeks. The flow of refugees arriving in Jordan has also doubled, it
Davutoglu was speaking shortly before going to New York to attend
a U.N. Security Council meeting where foreign ministers are expected to
discuss Ankara's proposal.
"We are studying the issue of buffer zones," said French Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair Thursday's meeting in New York.
"It's very complicated, we can't do it without the agreement of
the Turks and other countries but we want to make progress," he told
France Inter radio.
On Turkey's southern border, Syrian refugee Walid Abedeen said
Syrians have been asking for a buffer zone and a no-fly zone since the
revolt against Assad began.
"All Syrian people are with Turkey in this move," said the
56-year-old man, who left the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour
more than a year ago.
But an elderly woman in a purple headscarf and a long black dress,
who gave her name only as Hala, said a buffer zone could not be
"(Davutoglu) is asking for it, but it won't come to anything.
Bashar al-Assad won't accept because Iran supports him and Russia
supports him," she said, her back to rows of white tents which make up
the Boynuyogun refugee camp.