Turkey mulls buffer zone on Syria border


A Syrian refugee holds a portrait of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reading 'Power to the Nation' during a demonstration against the Syrian president at the Reyhanli refugee Camp in Antakya, on March 15, 2012. Around 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a defecting general, crossed into Turkey in the last 24 hours, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the Syrian revolt. Ankara accused the Syrian leadership of planting landmines near its border with Turkey along routes used by refugees fleeing the Damascus regime's deadly crackdown on dissent.


Bulent Kilic

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A Turkish deputy prime minister suggested that the country is considering setting up a safe zone along its southeastern border with Syria, Reuters reported.

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara, "We are making assessments including the withdrawal of our ambassador," and that they were "evaluating alternatives," including the buffer zone and the safe zone. There were no further details of what exactly these areas would entail, the Associated Press wrote.

Ankara is also urging its citizens to leave the country, citing "serious security risks," the BBC wrote. Consular services at the Turkish embassy in Damascus will be stopped on March 22, and the ambassador may be recalled. 

Erdogan "voiced hope the April 2 meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria group in Istanbul will help settle the crisis."

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In Moscow, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Syria's opposition for trying to undercut the mission of joint United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Lavrov said, "It was a bit strange when two days after his (Annan's) first visit to Damascus representatives of the opposition Syrian National Council declared that his mission had failed," the AP wrote.

Lavrov expressed hope that the West would encourage the Syrian opposition to cooperate with diplomatic efforts: "It's not only us and China who should be sending signals to Damascus so that it fully cooperates with Kofi Annan's mission, but other Security Council members also need to do their part of the work and urge the opposition not to provoke the exacerbation of tensions," he said.