The health minister in Syria’s interim government has backed Turkish plans for a safe zone for refugees in northern Syria.
Mohamed Wajih Juma spoke to Anadolu Agency at the Oncupinar border crossing between Syria and Turkey’s Kilis province, where tens of thousands of his compatriots have fled to escape a Russia-backed offensive in Aleppo.
“If the safe zone was built maybe people wouldn’t go through this tragedy and so many people wouldn’t die,” he said Monday.
“Building of a safe zone would be good for Syrians. We trust the policy of the Turkish government on this issue. Turkey is a party that sees and knows all sides of this issue. If a safe zone is built Syrians would have a place to be protected.”
Turkey has long advocated the establishment of a safe zone for refugees across its southern border between Jarabulus on the western bank of the Euphrates river and Azaz after Daesh is removed from the territory.
Turkey currently hosts 2.5 million Syrians -- the world’s largest refugee population. Ankara has spent $8 billion caring for those fleeing the five-year war in Syria and last week, the EU approved a 3 billion euro ($3.33 billion) aid package to help care for refugees.
Juma, a member of the Istanbul-based opposition administration, thanked Turkish aid agencies helping Syrians escaping from Aleppo and other parts of northern Syria.
Burak Karacaoglu, an official with the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), said the organization had provided accommodation, heating and food for the refugees.
“In the last four days, when the migration wave started, we have distributed 10,000 blankets. We also erected 350 tents and supplied food for 30,000 people a day,” he told Anadolu Agency.
But he said he feared a larger wave of desperate people as the offensive continues, despite pressure from around the world on the Syrian government and its Russian ally.
The attack by government, Iranian and Hezbollah ground troops, backed by Russian air power, in northwest Syria has seen supply routes from Turkey to rebel-controlled areas cut, leaving towns and villages without vital aid.
On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu revealed a ten-point action plan agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that will see renewed diplomatic pressure to urge the warring sides to comply with a UN resolution calling for an end to attacks on civilians.