Last updated: 20 August, 2012

Turkey can only handle 100,000 Syrian refugees

Turkey can handle no more than 100,000 Syrian refugees and has proposed setting up a UN buffer zone inside Syria to shelter them, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday.

“If the number of refugees increases to 100,000, we will not be able to shelter them in Turkey. We have to welcome them in Syrian territory” under UN auspices, Davutoglu told the newspaper Hurriyet.

The chief Turkish diplomat urged the United Nations to set up refugee camps “within the borders of Syria” in order to contain the number of Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country.

Davutoglu said Ankara would take part in a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on August 30 to study the humanitarian situation in Syria and neighbouring countries, hoping a decision will be taken there.

But Russia and China, which have used their veto three times on Security Council resolutions threatening sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, may not attend.

In a statement to the press Monday, Davutoglu said the Syrian crisis “constitutes a security risk for the neighbouring countries” (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon) that welcome Syrian refugees.

He called on the UN to “intervene, in accordance with its mission,” saying that otherwise “the UN will lose credibility and we will be entitled to question its mission,” the Anatolia news agency reported.

The exodus of refugees to Turkey has intensified in the last week as a result of a Syrian army offensive and fighting in the northern city of Aleppo, reaching a total of 70,000 people.

Turkish authorities began distributing aid to refugees on Syrian soil at the weekend.

The increasing flow of refugees has raised fears of a repeat of the 1991 Gulf War in 1991, when 500,000 Iraqi Kurds massed along the common border.