UN cautions Turkey against declaring buffer 'safe zone'
The UN's lead humanitarian coordinator warned Turkey on Tuesday against calling its planned security zone in northern Syria "safe" unless help can be guaranteed for civilians likely to flood the area seeking help.
Stephen O'Brien's advice came after Turkish and US officials pledged to establish an Islamic State group-free "safe zone" in Syria over the weekend.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said a "secure zone" would help 1.7 million Syria refugees currently sheltering in Turkey return home.
|Syria is the most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on the world's humanitarian conscience.
- Stephen O'Brien, UN
"What you don't want to do is call something a safe zone, people flee to it, but it hasn't got sufficient protection," O'Brien told reporters.
The UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator said his office was "in constant touch with all the people in trying to follow where proposals are arising" for new protection zones. However, he said ground forces would not necessarly be able to adequately protect "severely traumatised" civilians.
"Syria is the most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on the world's humanitarian conscience," he said.
Alongside the US, Turkey is planning to provide air cover for Syrian rebels to help them remove IS from an area along the Turkish-Syrian border. The US, however, has said the plan is not to create a 'safe zone' for civilians.
According to UN figures 220,000 people in Syria have been killed and 7.6 million internally displaced. A further four million have fled the country.
"Altogether, over one million people have been displaced from their homes in 2015 so far, many for the second or third time: this adding to the 7.6 million already internally displaced as of the the end of 2014," O'Brien told the UN Security Council during a meeting on the situation in Syria earlier Tuesday.