Turkey says world must share Syrian refugee burden

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Aug. 27, 2012 17:38
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In this Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 photo, internally displaced Syrians at the Syrian side of the Bab Al-Salam crossing border as they wait to cross to one of the refugee camps in Turkey, in the town of Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria.
Photo by AP

ANKARA - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday called for more help from other countries with a growing Syrian refugee crisis and said Ankara would stress this at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria later this week.

The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has nearly doubled over the past two months to more than 80,000 and this weekend Turkey begun temporarily holding thousands of people on the border while they scrambled to erect shelters.

"On the one hand, for the sake of our brotherhood with the Syrians we want to carry out our humanitarian duty, but there is a burden brought about by the numbers. This burden must be shared by the international community," Davutoglu said.

In total, more than 200,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries since the start of the conflict, already surpassing a U.N. year-end estimate of 185,000, and Turkey, which is housing the biggest number, is frustrated at what it sees as a sluggish international response.

Officials say several countries have sent humanitarian assistance but no financial aid and that the overall aid effort has been slow.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Davutoglu said he would be stressing this at a U.N. Security Council meeting of foreign ministers on Thursday that will also be attended by several countries not among the 15-member body.

"We will emphasise that this burden now needs to be shared by the whole international community, not just by Syria's neighbours," he said.

Davutoglu said last week Turkey could run out of space if the number went above 100,000 and suggested the United Nations may need to create a "safe zone" inside Syria.

Ankara fears a mass influx on the scale seen during the 1991 Gulf War when 500,000 people poured into Turkey, and says that would be one factor that could drive Turkey to establish such a zone.

But Turkey is reluctant to act unilaterally on what would essentially amount to a military intervention and the idea of a buffer zone has so far gained little traction elsewhere.


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