Britain, France play down Syria ‘safe zone’ hopes

The British and French foreign ministers highlighted Thursday the major obstacles to creating safe zones for refugees from Syria’s civil war, but said they are ruling out no measure yet.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 30 Aug 2012, 11:43 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:59 AM

Speaking ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on the growing humanitarian crisis, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also announced greater aid for international relief efforts.

Turkey, which faces a growing influx of refugees, has urged world powers to consider setting up safe zones to protect Syrian civilians, but Hague said such a plan would imply foreign military intervention.

“We are excluding no option for the future. We do not know how this crisis will develop,” Hague told a joint press conference with Fabius, warning of “considerable difficulties” in winning international consensus.

“It is steadily getting worse. We are ruling nothing out, we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios,” Hague said.

“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.”

Hague and Fabius said the UN Security Council — bitterly divided over the Syria conflict — would be unlikely to give its crucial agreement to any military operation to protect a safe zone.

Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions which could have led to economic sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad over the conflict and totally rejected any military intervention.

Fabius gave a similar message but said the conflict was almost certain to worsen and said “then we will have to look at the different solutions.”

Britain will give an extra three million pounds (4.75 million dollars) and France five million euros (6.2 million dollars) to aid efforts inside Syria and in camps in neighboring countries, the ministers said.

A UN appeal for $373 million for relief operations for Syria and refugee camps outside the country has raised barely $196 million.

Fabius and Hague said other countries had to step up financial assistance to the United Nations and other aid groups.

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