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Inside Syria
Will a buffer zone calm or stoke tensions?
We discuss the feasibility and risks of enforcing a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria.
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2012 18:22

Turkey has appealed to the UN Security Council to create a safe zone inside Syria, but they hold out little hope for an endorsement from the council that has failed so far to take action to stop the violence.

"Besides the budget concerns, there is another aspect to it - the place where the refugees are [being] taken care of is mainly in the province of Hatai where there are a lot of Arabs - and they are pro-Assad. It seems there is a lot of social unrest and that could place Turkey in a very uncomfortable position."

- Birol Baskan, a professor of government at Georgetown University

Britain and France say they have not ruled out any options - including a no-fly zone - to help civilians fleeing the war.

Tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing Syria into neighboring countries,  and Turkey believes that 100,000 refugees would be a tipping point.

With that threshold fast approaching, the government is proposing a solution.  Ankara wants UN approval for a "buffer zone" for displaced Syrians that stretches about 20km into Syrian territory.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, says so-called liberated zones have been identified and with proper funding and administration they could serve as a refuge for civilians caught in the violence.

But to be effective, a buffer zone would also need a no-fly zone to protect the area, and that cannot be established without a UN Security Council resolution.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, acknowledged that any such move would require UN backing and would be far too risky without the prior establishment of a no-fly zone. Enforcing such a zone without consent from the Damascus regime would risk military confrontation.

However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called the proposal for a buffer zone unrealistic. 

"I believe that talk about a buffer zone is not practical, even for those countries which are playing a hostile role (against Syria)," al-Assad said in a recorded interview broadcast on Syria's Addounia television.

But Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, has warned that the problem goes beyond being an internal issue. He says that "no one has the right to expect Turkey to take on this international responsibility on its own."

So, what are the risks of enforcing a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria?

To discuss this, Inside Syria, with presenter Teymoor Nabili, speaks to guests: Halla Diyab, a Syrian writer and spokeswoman for the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria; Daniel Serwer, a professor at the John Hopkins school of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the Middle East Institute, who also blogs at peacefair.net; and Birol Baskan, a professor of government at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

"We are excluding no option for the future. We do not know how this crisis will develop, how it will develop over the coming months - it's steadily getting worse, we're ruling nothing out and we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios. We don't generally go into what all that contingency planning is, but we also have to be clear that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention and that of course is something that has to be weighed very carefully."

William Hague, British foreign secretary 


FACTS ABOUT THE BUFFER ZONE:

  • Turkey wants international support for creating safe zone inside Syria
  • UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss supplying aid to Syria
  • French FM: France and Turkey have identified liberated zones in Syria
  • France says parts of Syria are out of government's control
  • Syrian opposition member says al-Assad’s enemies need safe zone
  • Turkey originally said it could host no more than 100, 000 refugees
  • UN officials: Turkey has about 80, 000 refugees while Jordan has 150, 000
  • Over last two weeks up to 5, 000 refugees a day entered Turkey
  • UN: Nearly 20, 000 people killed in Syria since the uprising began in 2011
  • Humanitarian agencies estimate up to 300, 000 people have fled Syria


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Source:
Al Jazeera
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