Turkey says Syria humanitarian corridor not on agenda
Turkey will follow the Arab League in imposing economic sanctions on Syria, but setting up humanitarian corridors on the ground to aid civilians is not on Ankara's agenda for now, an advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday Todays`Zaman reported
France has proposed the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to civilians in what would be the first international intervention on the ground in the eight-month popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
İbrahim Kalın, Erdogan's chief foreign policy advisor, told A Haber TV in an interview that the idea was "not on the agenda right now".
The French idea is for a corridor that provides access from frontiers such as Turkey and Lebanon, or even to an airport where a plane could land or the coast where a ship could moor.
Aid agencies, like the International Red Crescent, would be expected to deliver aid to beleaguered towns and cities, with non-armed monitors in place to see that the Syrian authorities did not interfere.
Turkey, with its 800-km (500-mile) border with Syria, would provide a likely starting point for any such scheme. Turkey's priority, however, was implementing economic sanctions against Assad's government, Kalın said.
Arab states agreed on Sunday to impose economic measures - the toughest against a member state - that include a travel ban on top Syrian officials and a freeze on assets related to Assad's government.
"Turkey has taken up the issue of sanctions in line with the decision made by Arab League on Sunday. We have been working on our own measures for a while. Our priority at this stage is that these measures are implemented as soon as possible," Kalın said.
Kalın said the sanctions being weighed by Turkey, Syria's largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $2.5 billion last year, will not affect ordinary Syrians. He ruled out steps such as cutting water or electricity supplies to Damascus.
"These measures should be calculated, assessed, analysed in detail so as to prevent any harm to civilians, and to discourage the regime and those who carry these operations and resume killings," Kalın said.
He also said Turkey was reluctant to be sucked into military involvement in Syria, including setting up a buffer zone, although he did not rule it out if there was a mass influx of refugees across the border.
"Setting up a buffer zone is not on our agenda yet. The circumstances that require a buffer zone have not emerged yet. To bring a buffer zone to the table, hundreds of thousands of people should start migrating into Turkey. The same goes for a military intervention. It will bring more harm than benefit."
Turkey, which fears its neighbour could descend into a sectarian civil war, was once a close friend of Syria, but Erdoğan has run out of patience with Assad's repressive methods and has called on him to step down.
"The worst scenario in Syria for everybody is a long civil war. Unfortunately it seems that the regime wants to take it there," Kalın said.