Ankara denies criticizing Syrian aid corridor plans

Ankara denies criticizing Syrian aid corridor plans

Foreign Ministry officials have denied allegations by the Turkish media that the government demanded that any humanitarian aid corridor to Syria be established through the Mediterranean Sea, rather than Turkish territory, Today's Zaman reported.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said that Turkey will abide by resolutions based on the consensus of international bodies such as the UN and claimed that it is too early to comment on the possible location for a humanitarian corridor to Syria, the establishment of which will depend on a UN Security Council resolution.

However, the Russian and Chinese vetoes of the UN resolution aimed at forcing President Bashar al-Assad to step down have revealed the current polarization of the UN Security Council.

The Turkish press reported on Thursday that Ankara would prefer that an aid corridor to Syria be established across the Mediterranean Sea, supported by a British naval base in South Cyprus, rather than Turkey's southeastern territories. Claiming that Turkey rejects a "no fly" zone and a buffer zone at its shared border with Syria, newspapers reported that Turkey deems such initiatives to be a major security threat. According to reports, Ankara also claimed that these initiatives will require authorization by Parliament.

The recent death tolls in Syria as a result of President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on political opponents, which included hundreds of civilian deaths after the continuous shelling of Homs by the Syrian military on Feb. 4, suggest that the situation in Syria is rapidly turning into a humanitarian tragedy. The need for food and medicine has increased and security conditions have deteriorated, according to human rights groups based in Syria.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said this week that his country has renewed calls for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors in Syria. Juppe first proposed the concept in November, when he suggested creating humanitarian corridors with either Syrian approval or under an international mandate that would see food and medicine shipped into Syria to alleviate civilian suffering. Under the plan, the corridors would link Syrian population centers to the frontiers of Turkey and Lebanon, to the Mediterranean coast or to an airport. "The idea of humanitarian corridors that I previously proposed, which would allow NGOs to reach the zones where scandalous massacres are taking place, should be discussed at the Security Council," Juppe said on Wednesday.

He also said that the idea of aid corridors was being discussed as part of an effort to convince Russia not to veto a new UN resolution on Syria. Russia, along with China, vetoed a UN resolution earlier this month urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Juppe is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later on Thursday. Lavrov, speaking after a meeting with the Dutch foreign minister on Wednesday, reiterated that Russia would not support any UN resolution that "could legitimize regime change" in Syria.

Observers say creating aid corridors would be a difficult task following the Russian-Chinese veto at the UN Security Council, given that it would require a military intervention and that Russia and China vetoed the measure mainly because of the possibility that such a resolution could lead to a military intervention.

However, Russia and China did not say whether delegates would be attending the meeting on the Syrian crisis in Tunisia on Feb. 24. If the agenda includes discussions on the possibility of mandating a UN peacekeeping force to take military action in Syria, which would support a request made by the Arab League last Sunday, Russian and Chinese attendance seems unlikely, the reports said.

Davutoğlu anticipated the final declaration of the conference would be a strong warning against the Assad regime and an expression of solidarity with the Syrian people.

Former United Kingdom defense secretary and foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind asserted in The Telegraph that Turkey should seal its border with Syria, as should Jordan, indicating that undermining the Syrian economy is key to ending Assad's regime. Accepting that the results of an economic embargo blocking all Syrian exports and imports would severely aggravate the humanitarian situation, he said it would still be preferable to watching the ongoing bloodshed in the country.

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