Germany is pushing for the establishment of special security zones in Syria near its border with Turkey to shelter refugees, Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said Saturday. However, the idea has faced opposition from the United Nations and aid workers alike.
Turkey, which hosts about 2.7 million refugees, has pressed for the proposal along with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees to European shores. However the U.N. has been wary of such a move unless there was a way to guarantee the refugees' safety in the war-torn country.
"I have always in my talks with the [Turkey’s] Prime Minister pleaded in favor of creating so-called safe zones, zones in which we can provide assurance and security guarantees and that has to be of the utmost immediate importance. Also, in our negotiations for a ceasefire, such areas or zones can be easily identified along the Turkey-Syria border," Merkel said at a news conference in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.
"We have worked to see that happen and we have worked with great energy in that direction. The safer the people feel the less urgent the need for them to leave their country," Merkel added.
The cessation of hostilities among the various factions in Syria, announced end of February to allow for peace talks, has since faltered.
The EU and Turkey, which made a deal to send back thousands of refugees from the Greek islands to Turkey, have been criticized by United Nations and human rights agencies, as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, Merkel's latest comments come even as thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria are unable to cross into Turkey, and are instead camped near the Azaz border crossing where local agencies are offering humanitarian support, Reuters reported.