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UN crisis meeting on Syria: no safe havens, no agreement to act (+video)

A Turkish appeal for the establishment of safe zones in Syria got little support in a divided Security Council. France and Britain touted an international effort to raise humanitarian-aid funds.

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A deeply divided UN Security Council went through the motions of a meeting on Syria Thursday, but the inability to address even the deteriorating humanitarian crisis suggests the international community remains far away from any role in ending Syria’s intensifying civil war.

France and Britain announced new funds to address what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “no one can now deny… is a humanitarian crisis.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country and France would convene an international ministerial meeting “in the coming weeks” to solicit more humanitarian aid for Syria and to coordinate action with UN humanitarian and aid agencies.

But such individual initiatives only served to underscore the inertia of a Security Council divided between the detractors and supporters of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The idea of establishing a partial no-fly zone over Syria and creating safe havens for hundreds of thousands of civilians uprooted by the fighting – a proposal promoted by Turkey – garnered little enthusiasm.

Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Mr. Fabius and Mr. Hague put Mr. Assad on notice that military action to create a safe zone inside Syria remains a possibility. But UN officials warned that such a step would require considerable study and planning.

"Such proposals raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration," UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council meeting.

The State Department on Thursday further dampened prospects for any rapid establishment of safe havens inside Syria, saying the US preference for the time being is to focus on humanitarian needs and planning for “the day after” Assad’s fall from power.

But US officials are hinting that the US is already working with Syrians in areas inside the country that some are referring to as de-facto safe zones – for example, in providing training to civilians seeking to maintain utilities and other services in areas that the Assad regime no longer governs.


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