Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the country is on a war footing. He described the present period as a challenge for the Middle Eastern state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
UN all talk on Syria aid as West mulls military action
* France, Britain: contingency plans for range of options
* Turkey says U.N. has nothing new for Syrian people
* UN says experience shows safe havens not always effective
* Paris, London boost humanitarian assistance for Syria
By John Irish and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30 (Reuters) - A U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria's aid crisis achieved nothing new on Thursday except to highlight global paralysis on the 17-month conflict as western powers warned that military action to secure civilian safe zones was still an option.
While the Security Council impasse between western nations and Russia and China means a resolution to approve such a move appears impossible, countries could act outside the authority of the world body and intervene, as happened in Kosovo in 1999.
"How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?" Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked the Security Council.
"I was expecting this meeting to produce tangible solutions to the suffering of the Syrian people," he said. "We don't have anything new to say to thousands of Syrians who suffer at the hands of the regime as the U.N. is entrapped by inaction."
The meeting produced neither a resolution nor a statement approved by the 15 Security Council members.
Ankara has repeatedly urged the United Nations to protect displaced Syrians inside their country as the number of refugees swells in neighboring states.
France and Britain said ahead of the meeting that civilian safe havens were being considered.
"We're ruling nothing out and we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "We also have to be clear that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention."
Creating a buffer zone for displaced Syrians would be difficult because a U.N. Security Council resolution would be needed to set up a no-fly zone to protect the area, and Russia and China would not approve such a move, diplomats said.
However, the Security Council could be bypassed to take action. The United States and its European allies did this in 1999 when they turned to NATO to halt a Serbian onslaught in Kosovo with a bombing campaign against Serbia.
The United Nations warned that the idea of buffer zones raised serious questions and had not always proved effective.
"Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
AID FOR REBEL ZONES
As Syria spirals deeper into civil war, the 15-member council is paralyzed as Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed resolutions that criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and threatened sanctions.
France, which is council president for August, had hoped the body could unite to deal with a shortfall in humanitarian aid and convened Thursday's meeting, which was attended by ministers from Syria's neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
"If sadly the conflict continues then we have to examine various solutions. We have to be realistic," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
But the absence of the U.S., Russian and Chinese foreign ministers at the meeting highlights the Security Council's failure to end Syria's conflict, which the United Nations says has killed nearly 20,000 people.
Less than half the council members sent ministers, and of the permanent members - the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France - only Fabius and Hague attended.
The two countries announced an increase in their humanitarian aid - 3 million pounds ($4.74 million) from London and 5 million euros ($6.25 million) from Paris - and called on other states to boost their commitments.
Fabius said Paris was channeling some aid to areas of Syria no longer under government control so that local communities can self-govern, encouraging people not to flee the country.
"The opposition has taken strong positions in the country," Fabius said after the meeting. "We need to help them financially, administratively and in terms of supplies."
Aid groups say as many as 300,000 Syrians have poured out of Syria since the uprising against Syrian Assad's rule began last year, while up to 3 million have been displaced. Turkey has seen the highest refugee influx.
SYRIA SAYS HELP NEEDED
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Syria did need humanitarian assistance, but its sovereignty should not be undermined in the process. He described refugee camps in neighboring countries as "detention camps."
"Syria feels a great bitterness and sorrow when we see some of our brothers living in tents on the border in dreadful conditions being dissuaded by attempts at intimidation from returning home," Ja'afari told the council. "They are turned into refugees, prisoners of these camps."
He said they were fleeing Syria because "terrorists" were using them as human shields.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed economic sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States and the European Union for worsening the humanitarian crisis.
"We fundamentally oppose such practices," Churkin told the council. "They simply complicate the life of simple citizens and deny them the opportunity to meet their elementary needs and fully enjoy basic human rights."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said no amount of aid would end the bloodshed and suffering. "That day will come only once Assad has departed and a peaceful Syrian-led transition to democracy has begun," she said.
Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, who will replace Kofi Annan as the U.N.-Arab League Syria mediator on Saturday, also attended but did not brief members. Annan blamed the Security Council impasse for hampering his six-month bid to broker peace and leading to his decision to step down.
"It is essential that the international community, and this Council in particular, unite behind him and his efforts," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said. "Separate diplomatic tracks will only prolong the violence, the human rights abuses and the humanitarian crisis."
Iran said on Wednesday it will form a team with other non-aligned countries to explore solutions to the crisis, while the United States has said it will turn to alternatives such as the "Friends of Syria" grouping of allied countries to pressure Assad after the Security Council's failure to act.
"If we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplice to the crime," Turkey's Davutoglu told the council.