(Reuters) - Turkey urged the United Nations on Wednesday to protect displaced Syrians inside their country but President Bashar al-Assad, battling rebels determined to overthrow him, dismissed talk of a buffer zone on Syrian territory.
Ankara fears a mass influx such as the flight of half a million Iraqi Kurds into Turkey after the 1991 Gulf War, and has floated the idea of a "safe zone" under foreign protection within Syria for civilians fleeing intensifying violence.
"We expect the United Nations to engage on the topic of protecting refugees inside Syria and if possible sheltering them in camps there," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
France has supported Turkey's call for a safe zone in Syria, and pressure for action increased after the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday Syria's refugee exodus was accelerating. Up to 200,000 people could settle in Turkey alone if the conflict worsens, the UNHCR said.
"When we talk about figures in the hundreds of thousands, this problem no longer remains a problem of an internal conflict in any one country but becomes an international dangerous problem," said Davutoglu.
But the United States and other Western allies have shown little enthusiasm to provide the military and aerial support to police a no-fly zone which would most likely be needed to implement Turkey's proposal.