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Turkey demands Syria safe havens

31 August 2012, 10:31

New York - War-torn Syria's frustrated neighbour Turkey demanded that world powers set up refugee camps within the country to stem the massive outflow of refugees fleeing the fighting.

Syrian rebels, meanwhile, claimed to have downed a regime jet, underlining the mounting ferocity of the civil war as ministers met at the United Nations to seek ways to deal with a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the UN Security Council to act "without delay" to set up safe havens, warning that 80 000 Syrians are already in camps in Turkey, with 4 000 crossing the border each day.

"How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?" demanded Davutoglu, slamming the Security Council's failure to agree action on Syria.

"Let's not forget that if we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplices to the crime."


The opposition Syrian National Council also renewed its call for the Security Council to impose no-fly zones on Syria to even the odds on the battlefield, where only the regime has access to air power.

But France and Britain warned that the envoys meeting at UN headquarters in New York were unlikely to reach an agreement on safe zones, as this would imply authorising a highly controversial protective military operation.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague held a joint news conference with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to warn that there are "considerable difficulties" with the idea of protected enclaves for civilians.

"We are excluding no option for the future. We do not know how this crisis will develop," Hague said. "It is steadily getting worse. We are ruling nothing out; we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios.

"But we also have to be clear that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention and that of course is something that has to be weighed very carefully."

UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson warned that the calls for humanitarian corridors "raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration".

The Security Council remains bitterly divided over how to deal with the 17-month-old conflict, which has split the country into warring pro- and anti-regime camps and which rights groups say has left 25 000 dead.


But Russia and China have vetoed three separate draft resolutions which would have threatened sanctions to force the regime to the negotiating table, and would almost certainly block any outside intervention.

The conflict has also stirred tensions in the wider Middle East. Clashes have erupted in Lebanon between factions linked to Syrian groups, while Turkey and most Arab countries have lined up behind the rebels.

Iran, meanwhile, backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, as does the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi caused a storm on Thursday with a speech at a Non-Aligned Movement summit hosted by Syria's ally Tehran, slamming Damascus and urging support for the opposition.

"Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity," the Egyptian leader said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused Morsi of seeking to ignite further bloodshed, and ordered his delegation to walk out.

The director of the Tishrin military hospital in Damascus said more than 8 000 members of the security forces have been killed since the uprising against Assad's rule broke out in March 2011.

"I estimate that at least 8 000 soldiers and members of the security forces have been killed since the beginning of the crisis," the director said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says more than 25 000 people have been killed in the 17-month-old uprising, puts the figure of soldiers and members of the security forces killed at nearly 6 500.

Syrian activists have called for the usual Friday protests to be held this week under the banner of "Daraya, a flame which will not go out", after a massacre of hundreds of people in the town of Daraya last week.



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