During a visit to Turkey on Saturday, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new working group to handle the repercussions of the Syrian crisis. Clinton met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. She also held talks with Syrian opposition groups in Turkey.
The three main aspects to the Syrian crisis discussed due to the high level of concern they raise among the US Department of State included the refugee influx, a possible power vacuum should Al-Assad step down, and the dangerous threat of the Syrian chemical weapons, as reported by CNN.
“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that,” Reuters quoted Clinton as saying.
Among the possible solutions, enforcing a no-fly zone over Syrian was discussed, according to Reuters but no agreements were reached.
Clinton announced the US’ allocation of $5 million as aid for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), apart from the $25 million in nonlethal aid, which includes communication equipment, medical supplies, intelligence assistance and body armour, the US is already giving the Syrian opposition.
According to the UNHCR, 50,227 Syrian refugees are in Turkey and 6000 crossed into the Turkish border only last week. Turkey is building four extra refugee camps to accommodate the increasing numbers of people fleeing Syria, according to CNN.
Preventing terrorism emanating from Syria was also discussed during Clinton’s visit. Several reports are citing Al-Qaeda’s presence in the conflict-torn Arab state. Moreover, the Kurdish takeover of key border cities in Syria is raising Turkey’s concern. Turkey is already busy with quelling its Kurdish Workers Party rebels (PKK) which it recognises as a terrorist group.
Another important diplomatic meeting scheduled for Sunday was delayed. According to AFP, an Arab League emergency meeting was postponed until a later time. The meeting was expected to gather the Arab countries’ foreign ministers to discuss the consequences of Kofi Annan’s resignation from being the Arab League United Nations peace envoy, as well as discuss who might be Annan’s best replacement.
Algerian diplomat Lkhdar Brahimi is so far the closest nominee to becoming the new peace envoy. Brahimi was a former Arab League official as well as a UN envoy. He was also a member in a global peace group called The Elders, which included a number of world leaders, including Kofi Annan and former US president Jimmy Carter, aiming at promoting global peace.
Syria continues to witness shelling and bloodshed as Al-Assad’s forces raided the city of Jericho in Idlib Saturday evening, where seven civilians were killed, two of whom were executed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory also added that a mass-arrest campaign has been launched since the Saturday evening raid. Tens have been arrested since Saturday and the arrests are ongoing.
Syrian state-owned SANA news agency reported the assassination of one of its reporters, Aly Abbas, at the hands of an “armed terrorist group,” according to AP. Abbas was reportedly killed in his home in Jdaidet Artouz, Damascus.