Turkish government readies for Syria buffer zone amid flow

Turkish government readies for Syria buffer zone amid flow

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish government readies for Syria buffer zone amid flow

Syrian refugees walk under rain on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border near Antakya in a bid to cross into Turkey. AFP Photo

The Turkish government is making preparations for a further exodus from Syria, as the number of people fleeing to Turkey rises sharply due to Syrian army rampages in the restive neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs and in the rebel stronghold Idlib. The number of Syrians currently staying in Turkey rose to 14,700 yesterday.

According to the course of developments, the establishment of a buffer zone at the border could be considered, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said in a televised interview yesterday.

Asked if Turkey was considering a corridor or buffer zone at the Turkish-Syrian border, Atalay said the issue was a common problem across the region, recalling that there had also been an influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon.

Considering the efforts of the international community, including the Arab League, Turkey was studying its strategy with all dimensions, Atalay said, adding that the Syrian army was militarily interfering in any attempt by the Syrian people trying to flee the unrest.

“The Syrian administration has been planting mines, taking measures not to allow refugees to flee to the other side of the border,” he said.

Around 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a general, have fled to Turkey in the last 24 hours, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has estimated. “The number of Syrians currently staying in Turkey climbed to 14,700 today,” spokesperson Selçuk Ünal told reporters yesterday.

Some 14,200 of those Syrian refugees are staying in camps in Hatay province, and the 500 Syrian refugees sheltering in Reyhanlı are being taken to a new camp in Gaziantep. A defecting general is also among the latest wave of Syrian refugees, Ünal stated.

“With the Syrian general who arrived yesterday, the number of Syrian generals hosted in Turkey increased to seven,” he adeed.

Turkey is to open a new refugee camp near the southern town of Kilis next month to host a further 10,000 Syrians. Work has also begun on a camp near the eastern end of the border at Ceylanpınar for 20,000 people. That would bring the total capacity in Turkey for Syrian refugees to 45,000. Turkey has not yet sent the invitations for the “Friends of Syria” group meeting that will take place in İstanbul, Ünal said, adding that an invitation for France was still being considered.

Despite the strain between Turkey and France, the gathering would be a multi-party meeting, the spokesperson said.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said that a “neutral actor” should take over responsibility for security in Syria to open the door for a settlement.

“By saying ‘neutral’ I don’t mean someone from abroad, but someone who would have the people’s trust,” Davutoğlu said on TGRT television. He played down the May general elections, saying it was already too late for the al-Assad regime.