Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Turkey today for emergency talks on the continuing violence in Syria. After announcing further aid for the crisis, Clinton and Turkish officials acknowledged the U.S. will be more involved in the regional response to the fighting between rebels and government forces.
"We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments," Clinton said, standing alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Both agreed a working group would be set up that would allow even further coordination between Washington and Ankara on the military implications and refugee crisis emanating from the fighting in Syria.
When asked what specific steps the two countries are considering to bring about the end of fighting, both leaders would not acknowledge any specific plans for military intervention.
However, the two did say they were planning contingencies for the possibility that Syria follows through on its July threat to use chemical weapons against outside aggressors.
Clinton said they were considering the proper "response, humanitarian and medical emergency assistance" for a chemical weapons strike, including how to safeguard stockpiles from rouge elements.
The two would also not confirm whether or not a Libya-like no-fly zone was being discussed, only saying the issue warranted "greater in-depth analysis."
Davutoglu, bringing the discussion back to the refugee issue, said Washington and Ankara were discussing a "safe zone" inside Turkey in case the humanitarian crisis drives even more refugees into the country.
"If there is a huge wave of refugee migration, then we need to maybe establish a mechanism within Syria in order to ensure humanitarian protection," Davutoglu said, saying bombardment of such unarmed refugees could be considered a war crime.
"In such a case, the international community can no longer keep its silence and there are certain measures that need to be taken up," he added. "We need to brace for impact."
The United Nations increased their refugee estimate on Friday, saying 146,667 Syrians have fled into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since the fighting began last year.
Davutoglu added 2,000-3,000 additional refugees come into Turkey daily, spurred most recently by fighting taking place in the northwestern city of Aleppo.
Taking into account these recent numbers, Clinton also announced further aid for the refugee crisis Saturday. An additional $5.5 million in humanitarian assistance will bring the total U.S. contribution to almost $82 million.
Most of the aid goes to United Nations programs such as the World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Over $15 million has also gone to various non-governmental organizations.
The U.S. also imposed new sanctions on Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol yesterday for trading with Iran and extended existing sanctions against Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah for providing training and weapons to the Syrian regime.
On Friday, the UK announced it would be providing its first tranche of aid directly to the Syrian rebels. Nearly $8 million will be given to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to be used for communication equipment and medical supplies.
Fighting continued between the FSA and President Bashar al-Assad's forces Saturday. In Damascus, violence was concentrated near the central bank, while government troops in Aleppo shelled four districts and continued their fight for the Salaheddin area.
Syrian state media said government forces had thwarted an attack against Aleppo's international airport earlier on Saturday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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