Turkey’s prime minister used his U.N. General Assembly speech on Wednesday to press demands for a “safe zone” to be created in Syria to protect civilians fleeing barrel bombs and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
Ahmet Davutoglu called for swift action to provide displaced Syrians with “safety in their homeland, a safe zone, free from aerial bombardment by the regime and ground assault by Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations.”
Home to two million Syrian refugees, Turkey has proposed creating the protected area near the Turkish-Syrian border as a way to cope with the mass influx of refugees from the war-torn country.
Initial reaction to the proposal was cool, but with refugees massing at European borders and thousands of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, Turkey’s proposal could come to the fore.
In his address, Davutoglu said the United Nations has “failed” to save lives in Syria over the past four years of war and stressed that Turkey has “assumed more than its fair share of the burden” from the refugee crisis.
“Our doors will remain open,” the prime minister declared, though warning that the refugee crisis will not end before a “legitimate government” is formed in Syria.
The prime minister spoke amid intense diplomatic debate over fighting ISIS militants in Syria and the fate of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
A fierce opponent of the Assad regime, Turkey has repeatedly called for his ouster and is supporting rebels fighting to overthrow him.
Davutoglu said earlier this week that Turkey would work will all countries, including Russia, to find a political solution in Syria that would ultimately see Assad leave power.
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