Turkey may consider setting up a buffer zone on its border in co-ordination with the international community in the event of a massive exodus of refugees from Syria, its foreign minister said.
“We are preparing for every scenario,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Kanal 24 television channel when asked whether Turkey was mulling the creation of a buffer zone.
“If hundreds of thousands of people flee to our border, this would of course create a different situation. Some steps could be taken then together with the international community,” he added.
Ankara has been critical off Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on opposition protests after Turkish diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month.
Tensions deteriorated further when two busloads of Turkish pilgrims who were in Syria on their way back from the hajj in Mecca were attacked by Syrian gunmen.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week urged his one-time ally Assad to step down, becoming the second regional leader to do so after Jordan’s King Abdullah. Davutoglu told the Syrian regime that the crackdown must end.
“Syria has no chance to survive unless it makes peace with its own people,” he said, while repeating that Turkey opposed military intervention.
Turkey has accommodated about 7,500 opponents of Assad’s regime in its Hatay province which borders Syria, after they fled the violence.
Among them is Riad al-Asaad, a Syrian army colonel who heads a group of army deserters that carries out attacks inside Syria.
Ankara has distanced itself from the group but has offered sanctuary to the broad-based opposition Syrian National Council, The Telegraph reported.