Friday, November 18, 2011

Turkey, Jordan to set up safe zones in Syria: diplomats

November 18, 2011 04:59 AM
The Daily Star

"BEIRUT: Turkey and Jordan, backed by Western and Arab powers, are preparing to set up two "safe zones" for civilians inside Syria, diplomats said Friday.

The Western and Arab diplomats told The Daily Star that Syria's two neighbors would press ahead with preparations to establish the two havens if President Bashar Assad did not sign on to an Arab plan aimed at ending a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters by Saturday.

The diplomats said an international meeting in Paris would discuss later Friday the details of the plans to set up the zones in southern and northern Syria.

On Wednesday, the Arab League gave Assad three days to agree in writing to allowing hundreds of observers into Syria to oversee the implementation of the Arab plan to end eight months of violence against protesters that has killed more than 3,000 people.

Representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan will meet to coordinate a response to Assad's possible refusal to sign on to the deal, the diplomats said.

On top of the agenda is agreeing for NATO member Turkey to establish a safe haven in northern Syria and for U.S.-ally Jordan to set up a similar zone in southern Syria.....

In the absence of the possibility of Security Council action, Friday's meeting in Paris was the best way to provide an international umbrella for these measures, one diplomat said. The Arab League is also expected to propose economic sanctions on Damascus next week, he said.....

The diplomats also reported that Assad appeared to be growing increasingly nervous over his safety with some reports suggesting he feared being targeted by an air strike. There were also reports of discontent among his inner circle and some Syrian diplomats abroad, though no signs of that have been visible......"

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