Friday August 31, 2012
Turkey call for Syria safe zones opposed by UN
UNITED NATIONS: Turkey urged the UN Security Council to set up civilian safe havens inside Syria on Thursday, saying it was struggling to coped with refugees fleeing the country's conflict.
But United Nations officials spoke out against the proposal and Britain and France warned of the major diplomatic and legal obstacles blocking any move to set up special zones, which could require military protection.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Security Council more than 80,000 Syrians are in camps in Turkey, 10,000 are waiting at the border and his country faces "seriously difficulty" coping with 4,000 crossing over each day.
"The UN should initiate the establishment of IDP camps within Syria without delay. Needless to say these camps should have full protection," he said, using the abbreviation for internally displaced persons.
Davutoglu said Turkey had spent more than $300 million and ministers from Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq also warned of the growing regional impact from a 17-month-old war, which activists say has left more than 25,000 dead.
"The scale of the tragedy is growing so out of proportions that Turkey finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the ensuing challenges all by itself," Davutoglu said.
But UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson warned that the calls for humanitarian corridors "raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration."
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres added: "Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas."
UN officials worry that militarily-protected safe zones could threaten the neutrality of humanitarian workers.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there are serious diplomatic, legal and military hurdles blocking special zones, but did not rule out future action.
At a joint news conference, Hague said there are "considerable difficulties" but added that with the conflict "steadily getting worse. We are ruling nothing out, we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios."
He added that "anything like a safe zone requires military intervention and that of course is something that has to be weighed very carefully."
The UN Security Council - bitterly divided over the Syria conflict - would be unlikely to give its crucial agreement to any military operation to protect a safe zone, the two ministers said.
Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions which could have led to economic sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad over the conflict and totally reject any military intervention.
The United Nations says there are now 221,000 refugees registered in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq which are all worried about the security fallout from the influx.
France and Britain announced new financial aid to UN efforts to help relief efforts inside Syria and in the camps in other countries.
France will give five million euros ($6.2 million) on top of the 20 million euros already allocated. Britain will give an extra three million pounds ($4.75 million) on top of the 27.5 million pounds it has already contributed.
A UN appeal for $373 million for relief operations for Syria and refugee camps outside the country has raised barely $196 million however.
The United Nations said fresh cash is urgently needed, and Fabius and Hague said other countries had to step up financial assistance.
"We call on other nations to increase their funding - and on Security Council members to set a strong lead," Hague said.
Fabius said much of the new French money would go to "liberated areas" inside Syria now in opposition control. He also demanded that the Syrian government give humanitarian workers "free access" to all areas.
The UN estimates there are 1.2 million displaced people sheltering in public buildings and many more have sought refuge with family and friends.
Some 2.5 million people have been affected by the conflict and a UN estimate made in June said three million people are "food insecure". -AFP