Syria: Refugee crisis worsens as West supports fractured insurgent coalition

syria-envoy.jpg
UN Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has said that Syrians
want "real change"

Scottish news: Syria - Refugee crisis worsens as West supports fractured insurgent coalition

by Christine Orr

UN Chief, Valerie Amos, has this week accused Syria of firing mortar bombs near the Jordanian border to prevent refugees fleeing the country. Amos stated that this bombing was “getting worse each day” and that something should be done to ensure the safety of these civilians.

Amos said, “We need the agreement by all those involved in the conflict to ensure they will not in any way bomb or shell or fight (refugees)."

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The humanitarian situation in Syria has continued to worsen with more and more refugees entering into neighbouring countries each day. The basic needs of these refugees have to be funded from charity and so far only 50 percent of the required aid has been funded.

Amos said, “We will do all we can to help the refugees and people of Syria but this requires the international community to work together to find a political solution which meets the needs of the Syrian people."

Turkey and Russia’s role

Key US ally Turkey’s request to NATO for Patriot missiles along its border has been met with outrage from Syria. Syrian officials have labelled this move “provocative”.

A statement released stated that Syria would hold Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responsible for the militarization of the situation on the Syrian-Turkish border and increased tensions."

UN Security Council member and Assad ally Russia has expressed concerns that the Patriot deployment would further complicate matters in the region and effectively help create and no-fly zone with no UN mandate to support it.

A no-fly zone is an option which has been considered by many international powers but as of yet has not been officially voted in and implemented.

Western pressure on Assad

Britain has pushed, with French support, for the EU arms embargo on Syria to be reviewed more regularly.

As of Saturday (December 1st) the embargo is to be renewed for another year but Britain is arguing for it to be reviewed every three months. At the moment the only weapons in the country are being smuggled there and although some countries, such as US sponsored Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are open about their supply of these to insurgents, if it were to become legal the opposition would be able to receive much more military aid.

These developments illustrate that the emergence of a new insurgent coalition is allowing Western powers to harden their approach to Syria as they now perceive that there is a legitimate replacement for Assad. This development however is beset with complications as Islamist groups, such as those partly in control of Aleppo, refuse to join the Western-backed coalition.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the Austrian paper Der Standard, urged Assad to consider a political settlement with the opposition.

He said, "The military option is not sustainable. The conflict should be resolved via a political process. (President Bashar al-Assad) should realise that he has gone too far, too deep, and how can he continue this way? He should listen to what his people would like."

This comes the same week that UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, strongly hinted that Assad will have to step down. Brahimi said that “new Syria” will be nothing like it was before as the Syrian people clearly demand real change.

Brahimi said: “I think it’s very, very, very clear that the people of Syria want change, and real change, not cosmetic changes.”

Violence continues

Two car bombs caused massive damage in Damascus in the pro-militia controlled district of Jaramana killing over fifty people. This district has now been victim of four such attacks in three months.

Syrian state news agency SANA said, "Terrorists blew up two car bombs filled with a large amount of explosives in (Jaramana's) main square killing and wounding several residents, and damaging several residential buildings and shops."

At the same time opposition forces reportedly brought down a warplane just outside of the city. The aircraft was apparently shot down with newly acquired surface-to-air missiles which have the potential to alter the balance of power.

So far Assad has had a strategic advantage through his air-power but if the opposition forces have acquired a large quantity of these missiles then this strategic advantage is neutralised levelling the conflict.

On Thursday, Assad reportedly closed down the internet across the country and blocked mobile reception in some opposition held areas. This was seen as an attempt to hamper communications and disrupt the opposition from being able to effectively organise its troops.

The minister for information, however, blames “terrorists” for the disruption.

He was quoted by al-Ekhbariya as saying, "It is not true that the state cut the Internet. The terrorists targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off."

This was while Syrian forces fought fiercely with opposition troops near the capital’s airport. The battle forced some international flights to be cancelled as it was not considered safe to fly over the area.

Last week rebels claimed several military bases which appear to have made them confident enough to try and seize areas that are strategically important in terms of getting closer to Assad’s seat of power in Damascus. This week the military helicopter base, Marj al-Sultan, was taken by insurgents.

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published this page in News 2012-12-01 14:01:41 +0000