Turkey still undecided on buffer zone in Syria

August 28, 2012, Tuesday/ 16:07:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey has been considering establishing a buffer zone in Syria since the beginning of the Syrian crisis but has yet to take a clear position on the issue, a Turkish diplomat has said, responding to France's statements supporting such a scenario.

“A buffer zone is one of the possibilities, in our perspective [regarding the Syrian crisis]. No Turkish officials could say that Turkey would say ‘OK' to a buffer zone at this point,” said the diplomat.

French President François Hollande stated that France is collaborating with its allies for the establishment of a buffer zone in Syria, during a meeting of French ambassadors in Paris on Monday.

“We are examining the buffer zone initiative proposed by Turkey. We are doing that in close cooperation with our closest partners,” Hollande said during the meeting.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu emphasized last week that Turkey would not accept more than 100,000 refugees and that the creation of a buffer zone could be necessary to contain a refugee flow onto its soil.

Davutoğlu will attend a ministerial conference organized by the UN Security Council in New York on Saturday, convened under France's initiative to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria and its neighbors. France has already declared that security zones in Syria would be an important topic to be discussed in that meeting.

The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is nearing 80,000 and Turkey has requested that the international community share its burden in the face of a possible new influx of refugees. At least 2,000 people fleeing violence in Syria were prevented from entering Turkey overnight on Saturday at one of several unofficial border crossings in the southern province of Hatay, a Turkish official and witnesses said on Monday.

Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has urged the international community to consider backing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria but cautioned that closing all of the Arab nation's airspace would be tantamount to "going to war" and would require a willing international coalition that does not yet exist.

Hollande has also expressed strong support for the speedy formation of a provisional government by the Syrian opposition -- a proposal opposed by US officials on the grounds that it is premature, as the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still so fractured.

American officials said on Monday that the French announcement was not coordinated with other nations that have been working on a diplomatic solution to the civil war and that the US would not echo Hollande's proposal anytime soon.

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