Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
A Syrian rebel (left) helps men carry a civilian wounded by sniper fire to a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo. Fighting in Aleppo, only 50 kilometres from the border, has swelled the number of refugees fleeing to Turkey.
A Syrian rebel (left) helps men carry a civilian wounded by sniper fire to a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo. Fighting in Aleppo, only 50 kilometres from the border, has swelled the number of refugees fleeing to Turkey.

Turkey calls for Syrian refugee 'safe zones'

United Nations urged to set up protected havens on Syrian side of border if numbers fleeing the conflict increase to 100,000.

ISTANBUL //The United Nations may have to create a safe zone for refugees inside Syria because Turkey cannot cope with the influx for much longer.

Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday the UN should step in once the number of Syrian refugees in Turkish camps - about 70,000 at the moment - passes 100,000.

"If the number exceeds 100,000, the situation changes from a refugee flow to mass migration," Mr Davutoglu said.

"We will run out of space to accommodate them. We should be able to accommodate them in Syria. The United Nations may build camps in a safe zone within Syria's borders."

Fighting in the northern city of Aleppo, only 50 kilometres from the border, has swelled the number of refugees fleeing to Turkey. Syrian rebels have also expanded the territory they hold near the border in the past few weeks and opposition groups say they need the protection of no-fly zones and safe havens patrolled by foreign forces.

Mr Davutoglu said Turkey would take part in a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on August 30 to study the humanitarian situation in Syria and neighbouring countries, hoping a decision would be taken there.

But Russia, a strong ally of the Syrian regime and a UN veto power, said safe havens would not help to end the conflict. "Unilateral ideas won't work," the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said this month that the United States and Turkey were looking at all measures to help the insurgents, including a no-fly zone.

But a Turkish diplomat cautioned that a safe haven or no-fly zone would not be established automatically once Mr Davutoglu's figure of 100,000 refugees was reached.

"It's a psychological barrier," the diplomat said. "It does not mean we will declare a no-fly zone once there are 100,001 refugees."

The diplomat said Turkey had to tell about 5,000 Syrians to wait at the border last week because there was no place for them in Turkish camps.

Those people had been taken to schools, other public buildings and refugee camps in Turkey by now, he said. "But the question is: what happens if that figure is not 5,000 people who turn up at the border suddenly, but tens of thousands?"

Yesterday US President Barack Obama said that if Syria were to move or use its chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would change his perspective on how to respond to the conflict. "There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons... That would change my calculations significantly," Mr Obama told reporters at a White House briefing.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian foreign minister appointed to revive the UN's peace effort, called the situation in Syria a "civil war".

"A lot of people say we must avoid civil war in Syria - I think we are already there, we have been for quite some time now," Mr Brahimi said. "What's needed is to end the civil war, and that won't be easy."

Mr Brahimi was appointed last week to replace Kofi Annan as the joint UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria.

Syrian tanks shelled the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Al Mouadamiya yesterday, killing at least three people, opposition activists said. Another six people were reported to have been killed in the southern city of Daraa, birthplace of the country's 18-month-old uprising against the regime of Bashar Al Assad. At least 84 people were killed across Syria on Sunday, according to activists.

The latest death toll came as UN monitors in Syria left Damascus yesterday, after a four-month mission in which they became helpless spectators of the conflict and in which French president, Francois Hollande, insisted that there can be no political solution for the conflict unless the president, Bashar Al Assad steps down from power. There "cannot be a political solution without the departure of Bashar Al Assad," Mr Hollande told Mr Brahimi in a meeting, according to a statement issued by his office.

tseibert@thenational.ae

With additional reporting by Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National