Turkey to raise Syrian refugee crisis in UN Security Council

August 20, 2012, Monday/ 16:54:00

Turkish foreign minister has said Turkey will raise the issue of growing number of Syrian refugees crossing into Turkey every day in the UN Security Council and ask the top UN body to assess the matter as an “international crisis.”

Ahmet Davutoğlu didn’t elaborate how Turkey will raise the issue in the Security Council but he was most likely referring to a ministerial meeting of UN Security Council members planned for Aug. 30, where Turkey will also participate.

Davutoğlu told reporters in his hometown Konya that we can say that the Syrian refugee influx is a result of a civil war or tension when there are tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence. But he said when the numbers reach to hundreds of thousands, then it will be what he said “mass migration” rather than a refugee flow. He recalled Kurdish peshmarga crisis, when nearly half a million Kurdish people fled Saddam’s Iraq to Turkey.

Turkey wants to avoid a massive influx of people crossing its borders, having been inundated by 500,000 people from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

Syria is veering ever closer to an all-out civil war as the conflict turns increasingly militarized. Already more than 13,000 have died since March 2011, according to activist groups.

Turkey is wary of military intervention in neighboring Syria, but has signaled a large flood of refugees entering its territory, or massacres by Syrian government troops, could force it to act. It has said that in any operation it would need some form of international agreement and involvement.

Turkey, which fears its neighbor could descend into a sectarian civil war, was once a close friend of Syria, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed that they are running out of patience with Assad's repressive methods and has called on him to step down. Late last year, Turkish officials stated that Turkey opposes unilateral steps or intervention aimed at “regime change” in Syria, but has not ruled out the possibility of more extensive military action if security forces began committing large-scale massacres.

Davutoğlu urged the UN to seek ways to find a solution to the crisis and said Turkey will continue help its “Syrian brothers,” warning against mass wave of Syrian refugee migration. He said in this case, the issue will turn into an international crisis and Turkey will raise the issue in upcoming Security Council meeting.

Davutoğlu was quoted on Monday by Turkish media as saying that the UN may need to create a "safe zone" within Syria to accommodate a growing number of refugees from the fighting there.

Turkey, already hosting nearly 70,000 Syrians fleeing the 17-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, may soon be unable to cope, Davutoğlu said.

"If the number of refugees in Turkey surpasses 100,000, 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," he added.

Syrian opposition fighters have expanded the territory they hold near the Turkish border in the last few weeks and opposition groups have said they need the protection of no-fly zones and safe havens patrolled by foreign forces.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said on Aug. 11 that Washington and Turkey were looking at all measures to help the insurgents, including a no-fly zone, although no member of the UN Security Council has formally proposed such a move and the option has gained little traction so far.

A no-fly zone and a NATO bombing campaign helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. The West has shown little appetite for repeating any Libya-style action in Syria, and Russia and China strongly oppose any such intervention.

Turkey began handing out food and other humanitarian aid to Syrians on the border on Saturday.

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