Middle East

Germany ready to receive Syrian refugees if international framework agreed

Syrian refugees gather near tents at a makeshift refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border near Al-Salama crossing.

BERLIN/ISTANBUL: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Tuesday that Germany is “ready in principle” to host Syrians who have fled the war there, but added that it must be done under an international framework.

“Germany is ready in principle to welcome Syrian refugees,” he told regional newspaper Rheinische Post.

But he called for a coordinated plan to be put in place with the United Nations, the European Union and refugee aid groups.

Turkey, which is coping with an influx of over 100,000 refugees from Syria, has been urging Europe to do more to help.

The European Union said Monday it would continue assisting Ankara but made no offer to take refugees in, and in the interview with Rheinische Post, Westerwelle noted that the “majority of the refugees want to remain in the region [around Syria], so as to be able to return immediately to their country once circumstances allow them to.”

Germany was therefore putting the focus at the moment on humanitarian aid on site, he said.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2.5 million people have been affected by the fighting. There are more than 348,000 Syrian refugees registered in neighboring countries, but many more are unregistered.

Separately, Turkey has spent 400 million lira ($220 million) from government finances on accommodating refugees from the crisis in neighboring Syria, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said Tuesday.

The number of Syrian refugees housed in camps in southern Turkey has exceeded 100,000, the Turkish disaster management agency said Monday, a level beyond which Ankara had previously said it would struggle to accommodate more.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2012, on page 8.




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