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Peace at home, peace in the world

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Address by H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, at the High Level Segment Meeting During the 64th Excom Meeting of UNHCR, Geneva, 30 September 2013

Madam Chair,

High Commissioner Guterres,

Distinguished Colleagues,

 

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, His Excellency Antonio Guterres, for taking the initiative to organize this High Level Segment Meeting on Syria just before the annual Executive Committee meeting of the UNHCR.

 

As the previous speakers pointed out, the situation in Syria deteriorates further every day. The humanitarian calamity we face now is beyond our individual capabilities. It requires collective approaches as well as joint actions.

 

Turkey shares a 911 km long border with Syria. This border that was artificially carved out at the end of the First World War, cut through villages and divided families. Each bullet fired, each exploding bomb resonates not only in our ears but in our hearts and minds. Today human settlements on both sides are so near that we can see the atrocities committed on the other side with our bare eyes.

 

Therefore, since the beginning of the conflict, we maintained an "open border" policy for Syrians fleeing from the violence in their country. Turkey strictly complies with the principle of non-rejection at the border and in accordance with international refugee law, provides Syrians with "temporary protection" without any discrimination.

 

Let me give you some statistics on the refugee movements towards Turkey since the start of the events in Syria:

 

In 2011 September, some 7,500 Syrians fleeing from the attacks of the Regime forces conducted by mainly light firearms, sought refuge in Turkey.

 

In 2012 September, the Syrian Regime forces started to use heavy weaponry on the civilian population and conducted military operations in cities. In this period some 50,000 Syrians took refuge in Turkey.

 

In 2013, the Regime started to use ballistic weapons/SCUD missiles and conducted air bombardments. In this period the number of Syrian refugees who came to Turkey has increased 10 fold and reached 500,000.

 

Now we are confronted with yet another challenge; namely the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the regime and its possible ramifications in the humanitarian sphere. In this vein, we welcome the Framework Agreement reached in Geneva and UN Security Council resolution adopted last week in New York.

 

However, here I want to express our disappointment that there was no single reference to humanitariansituation in this resolution. I have spoken with manySecurity Council Members and other colleagues toinclude a reference, just a reference; a simple reference, not measures, regarding humanitarian aspect in the resolution. When we saw the text, We were deeply disappointed that there was not a single reference. It was promised that there will be another resolution to be adopted for this purpose. We hope another UNSC resolution will be adopted on the humanitarian crisis. If not, future generations willask the UN and all its bodies as to how they remained silent to this humanitarian tragedy in Syriafor so long.

 

The success of this initiative on chemical weapons would not only eliminate a serious threat against regional security, but also prevent the recurrence of such crimes against humanity by the regime. However, we shouldn’t let the regime to exploit this exercise to gain time to maintain its bloody campaign as it has done before on many other occasions. In the absence of international confidence on the Assad regime, the involvement of the UN Security Council together with explicit and predefined measures is essential.

 

Moreover, this agreement should not be perceived as the final solution to the Syrian crisis. More than 100,000 innocent Syrians have not been killed by chemical weapons. On the contrary, even as we speak the regime’s brutality through various conventional means continues unabated. In this vein, if an immediate solution to the conflict cannot be found any time soon, the neighboringcountries should be ready for an ever increasing number of refugees.

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

In Turkey, we regard extending a helping hand to those who endure horrible experiences and took refuge in our countries to save their lives as our obligation as well as humanitarian duty.

 

Our "open border" policy for Syrians continues. Syrians benefiting from temporary protection are currently hosted in 21 shelters in our border cities. Around 201,000 Syrians are accommodated in the shelters as of today, in addition to more than 350,000 Syrians who live outside shelters under our protection. The total number is around 550,000.

 

UNHCR’s expectation of another 500,000 refugees by the end of the year makes the picture even worse.

 

Allow me to give you some figures as to the dimensions of the assistance we have provided so far:

 

• 5,996 (almost 6,000) Syrian babies were born in camps in Turkey. They are children ofcamps.

• The average number of daily applications to health centres is around 8,581; so far more than 1.5 million (1,560,131) Syrians have been treated at health centres.

• Over 28,000 Syrians have undergone medical operations.

• At present, 35,889 Syrian patients are under medical care at hospitals. You can imagine the burden on the Turkish health system, because at the same time Turkish citizens need health services, and we treat them equally.

• 45,696 students receive education by 1,923 teachers in 693 classrooms at the camps.

• 27,221 Syrian adults have so far completed technical training programmes.

 

Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, myself, and our Members of Parliament visit these camps in order to see our services directly and to meet the people on the field. I was there together with my family in the first day of Ramadan. I spent one night with them and shared their experiences. I wish some of you visit the camps and see the orphans. They are lucky, because they are in shelters in good conditions.

 

We also channel substantial humanitarian aid to Syria through the border zero point operation which we developed in line with international humanitarian norms and in support of the UN campaign carried out in Syria. We launched this operation in August 2011. It has helped tremendously the Syrians in dire humanitarian need, particularly in the areas close to the Turkish border.

 

The total value of the aid channeled to Syria at the zero point of the border is in the range of 200 million US Dollars in addition to 2 billion Dollars we have already spent for Syrians in Turkey.In terms of hosting the Syrians as well as providing humanitarian assistance through the border zero point operation, evidently Turkey has proven to be the leading donor.

 

But we are still face-to-face with a serious responsibility to provide the Syrian people, with sufficient and sustainable humanitarian assistance and protection.

 

High Commissioner,

Distinguished Colleagues,

 

This is a colossal humanitarian catastrophe. It is unprecedented in history. It is inarguable that the response of the international community has fallen far short of the required levels. It failed to bring a political solution that would address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. It also failed to provide effective humanitarian response. We need to put an end to this senseless silence.

 

I have shared with you the present picture from Turkey’s perspective. Meanwhile, we need to set a road map for the future with a view to coping with one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history, and also getting the international community to honour its obligations in terms of burden and responsibility sharing under international humanitarian law.


In this regard, I suggest the following for your consideration:


• First and foremost, the international community needs to replace words with deeds by expeditiously scaling up their contributions to the UN plans, namely, RRP and SHARP, and fund them fully. Regretfully, the funding rate for both plans is around 40 per cent. As for the RRP, only one third of the required level, that is 1.1 billion of the 3 billion US Dollars has been provided. 
 • The UN must employ its entire means to get the Member States to live up to their obligations. It should use all available means to get them on board. 

• International community must also come forward to raise their bilateral contributions to the neighboring countries to alleviate the tremendous burden they are shouldering. As for Turkey, our spending from the national budget is around 2 billion US Dollars, whereas the combined value of bilateral as well as multilateral contributions is 133 million US Dollars. That is far less than ten per cent of what we spent.

• Another key component of the process is enhancing resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission or transfers to third countries. I think the UN should lead the efforts in developing projects in this regard. We remain prepared to extend our full cooperation with a view to realizing the projects for resettlement. But specific criteria should be put in place for resettlement programs. This should not be an endeavour for third countries to come and hand-pick the healthy, the wealthy, the better educated and members of certain religious or ethnic minorities. Hiding behind the argument that “certain groups have better change to be easily integrated in certain countries” is, to say the least, discriminatory. If this is a humanitarian operation, then priority should be given to the most needy, destitute and vulnerable. The healthy, the wealthy and the better educated will be needed for the eventual reconstruction of Syria. Nor should a resettlement programme create a pull-factor for the undeserving who would be seeking to upgrade their lives in third countries.

• In order to make progress towards achieving these aims, I suggest that we continue the structured dialogue among the Syria bordering countries under the coordination of the UNHCR and that we meet at ministerial level at least once a month. We should also hold our meetings in the field. We already proposed to hold the first of such meetings in Turkey.

• I believe we should also address the need to involve the real witnesses with a view to bringing the enormous dimensions of this tragedy to the attention of the international public.

• In this context, I suggest that a representative and inclusive assembly of Syrian refugees be formed. This assembly should visit the UN Headquarters and the donors’ capitals to share the horrible events they witnessed.

• I call on the relevant UN agencies, including UNICEF, to consider establishing orphanages for the Syrian refugee children who lost their parents.

• And I call on the UNSC to adopt a strong resolution addressing the humanitarian situation as early as possible, without any further delay.

 

While we are all aware that we have gathered here for humanitarian purposes, I will have to remind you once more that, the humanitarian tragedy we are facing here has its roots in political and military crises. If it wasn’t for the terrifying developments in Syria of the last two and a half years, we would not have had to deal with a refugee crisis.

 

The UN Security Council should hear the voice of the Syrian people and of displaced persons in particular. We cannot keep on fighting a refugee issue, while its root-causes are still alive inside Syria.

 

The UN Security Council should at least decide on creating proper safe areas and corridors in Syria for those people in need. We must keep in mind that a durable solution could only be found through identifying ways to address humanitarian crises within the borders of Syria. This has become an urgent necessity rather than a political preference. Only by then we could assure the Syrians to remain in their country, as their needs will be met there.

 

We all remember vividly that an inadequate response by the international community to the question of the Palestinian refugees has consequently turned it into a chronic crisis. It is also alarming that the Palestinian refugees in Syria want to go as refugees to neighboring countries. So, they will be refugees again.

 

Dear Mr. High Commissioner,

 

Before I conclude, I wish to express my renewed appreciation to your leadership and the UNHCR again for organizing this meeting and for your kind hospitality.

 

International community should not forget Syrian orphans, children, women and innocent people.

 

Therefore, again I want to underline that a UNSC resolution is necessary. I can assure you, Mr. High Commissioner, that we will never forget Syrianbrothers and sisters. As Turkey, we will continue our open door policy, and keep our homes open, but more importantly our hearts will continue to be open to them forever. We share common destiny. We will never forget them.

 

Thank you.