Wednesday 15 February 2012

UN-Turkish humanitarian corridors to Syria war

Davutoglu and Clinton (State Department image)

The next palliative to the Syrian crisis is likely to be a three-month old French prescription mandated by the UN and administered by Turkey: humanitarian corridors to the Syria war.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reveals as much in remarks to Milliyet, the major Turkish daily newspaper founded in 1950, after his extensive talks in Washington this week with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  
Ankara, he tells Milliyet, is set on a two-pronged approach to the situation in Syria – one political, the other humanitarian.
“We tried everything in the nine months of our negotiations with the Syrian regime,” Davutoglu said, adding:
“In the end, we supported the Arab initiative. But Syria detached itself from its people and the Arab world. The prevailing universal impression is that the regime is relying on Russian, Chinese and Iran’s backing.
“We’re now working in tandem with the Arab League on two tracks. On the political track, we aim (presumably through the planned “Friends of Syria” coalition) to raise world public awareness and create an international consensus. On the other track, we want to work with the United Nations on a mechanism to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian cities, particularly Homs and Hama.”
He also told Milliyet, “We are thinking of delivering the humanitarian assistance to the said cities through humanitarian corridors.”
Davutoglu’s words echo his remarks after meeting with Clinton at the State Department on Monday, when he told a joint press briefing:
“We went through the situation in Syria. First, we agreed there should be a new humanitarian initiative to reach out to people who are suffering because of shortages of food and medicine everywhere in Syria. And therefore, I spoke with the UN Secretary-General yesterday, and we started, as Turkey, an initiative with the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, (on ways) to make this humanitarian access possible.
“Secondly, of course the political dimension. We (the United States and Turkey) will be together in Tunisia, and the meeting in Tunisia (of the “Friends of Syria”) will be an important international platform to show solidarity with the Syrian people, and to send a strong and clear message to the Syrian regime, that they cannot continue these violent policies…”
Clinton herself told Monday’s briefing, “We will work closely with Turkey and other partners to address the growing humanitarian concerns of those who are suffering. We have heard the call of the Syrian people for help and we are committed to working to allow the entry of medical supplies, of emergency help to reach those who are wounded and dying. We are increasing our funding to organizations like the Red Crescent, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and we’re working directly with Syrian organizations at the grassroots to help families who have no electricity, food, or clean water.
“And because of the process leading toward Tunisia, we will work closely with Turkey and others to promote a political process.“
The frontier between Turkey's Hatay province and Syria offers the probable site for the "humanitarian corridors" first proposed by France last November. Hatay is hosting all five camps for refugees who crossed over from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe outlined the proposal for technically and politically challenging humanitarian corridors to Syria in late November, saying they could be carved out either with or without the approval of Assad’s regime.
At the time, Juppe ruled out military intervention, but when asked whether humanitarian convoys would need military protection he said: "Of course ... by international observers, but there is no question of a military intervention in Syria.”
"For us, there is no possible humanitarian aid without an international mandate," Juppe said.
Humanitarian corridors to Syria and the February 24 “Friends of Syria” conference in Tunisia would fulfill two provisions of last Sunday’s Arab League resolution on the Syrian crisis.
A third provision urging the UN Security Council to pass a resolution setting up a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force for Syria is on its deathbed. Both the United States and Russia concur the peacekeeping request “will take agreement and consensus” since “there is no peace to keep in Syria” as yet.