Daily Israel Report

UN Urged to Set Up 'Safe Havens' Inside Syria

The United Nations says that proposals to set up secure safe zones in Syria need to be studied carefully.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/31/2012, 7:12 AM

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Reuters

The United Nations said on Thursday that proposals to set up secure safe zones in Syria to help end the 17-month conflict raised “serious questions” and would need to be studied carefully.

According to a report in Al-Arabiya, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who attended a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, urged the UN Security Council to set up civilian safe havens inside Syria, saying his country was struggling to cope with refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

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,” Al-Arabiya quoted him as having said, using the abbreviation for internally displaced persons.

“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,” he added.

However, according to the Al-Arabiya report, 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.

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 also worry that militarily-protected safe zones could threaten the neutrality of humanitarian workers, Al-Arabiya reported.

The Syrian National Council urged the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to protect civilians caught in Syria's conflict, in a statement issued ahead of the UN council meeting on Thursday.

The SNC said a no-fly zone and corridors were essential to protect almost 2.5 million civilians displaced by the conflict or who had fled across the borders with Syria's neighbors.

“The SNC considers that if the Security Council does not take serious measures to halt the regime's massacres and crimes, it will have abandoned its role as guarantor of world peace and protector of people against genocide,” said the statement quoted by Al-Arabiya.

As the 17-month-old civil war in the country continued to claim victims this week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed Turkey for the violence.

“Turkey bears direct responsibility for the blood being shed in Syria,” Assad told the pro-regime local television channel Ad-Dounia in an interview on Wednesday.

He added that the talk of a Western-imposed buffer zone on Syrian territory was unrealistic and that the situation in his country was “better.”

In excerpts of the interview released on Tuesday, Assad claimed that the situation in the torn country is improving.

He said that it will take some time until the military campaign in the country is completed, adding that the regime is making progress and the improvement can already be felt.

Meanwhile, Turkey's ruling AK (Justice and Development) Party accused Assad of “heaving heavy weapons” for Kurdish PKK terrorists in northern Syria.

A senior party official was quoted by the Todays Zaman daily newspaper as saying that “Ankara has reliable intelligence that the Syrian military intentionally left heavy weapons for the PKK when it abandoned areas in northern Syria.”

“Bashar al-Assad is acting on the idea that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' It is crystal clear that he is taking the PKK under his wing and using it against Turkey,” AK Party deputy chairman Huseyin Celik said Wednesday.