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UN refugee chief urges political solution to Syria conflict

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (L) looks at a document during an urgent debate of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Syria on May 29, 2013 in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

HARRAN REFUGEE CAMP, Turkey: UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Friday it was vital that next week's peace talks find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria and the suffering of its people.

And he issued a fresh appeal for the world to ease the massive burden on countries sheltering millions of refugees since the conflict erupted almost three years ago.

"I am humble enough to recognise that there is no humanitarian solution for this problem. The solution is political," he told a meeting in Turkey of regional refugee-hosting nations.

The talks in the Harran refugee camp on the border with Syria brought together officials from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon as well as Turkey to discuss humanitarian aid efforts for the massive tide of Syrians who have fled their homeland.

"Geneva II cannot be indifferent to the humanitarian dimension of the Syrian conflict and dramatic suffering of the Syrian people," the countries said in a joint statement.

They called for all parties to put their differences aside and join the long-delayed Geneva II conference opening on Wednesday.

The Damascus regime has said it will send a delegation but the deeply-divided Syrian opposition has yet to agree on whether to attend.

"Conditions must be created for humanitarian agencies to have unimpeded access to all the victims of the conflict, independently of their location inside Syria," the Harran statement said. 

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also said after the meeting that efforts to stop the civil war in Syria must tackle the "poisonous" extremism and sectarianism threatening the region, including his country.

But he warned that there would be no "magical solution" at the Swiss talks.

Russia said earlier Thursday that Syria was ready to take a series of humanitarian steps that would lead to the speedier delivery of assistance to those in need, without giving details.

Guterres said refugee host countries needed "massive financial support" to address the challenge and made an appeal to all nations to share the burden.

The United Nations this week launched an appeal for $6.5 billion in what it said was the largest ever in its history for a single humanitarian emergency.

'World's fastest producing refugee country' A donors' meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday pledged more than $2.4 billion for victims of the Syrian war, less than half the amount sought.

The number of refugees has grown fourfold in a year, from 588,000 at the end of 2012 to 2.4 million in late 2013 according to UN figures.

More than 905,000 of them are in Lebanon, a country of some 4.5 million people. An additional 575,000 refugees are in Jordan, 562,000 in Turkey, 216,000 in Iraq and 145,000 in Egypt.

"What Syrian people need is peace and the possibility to go back to their country and to rebuild their country," said Guterres.

"Just six years ago Syria was the second largest refugee-hosting country in the world, with more than two million refugees... unfortunately today Syria is the fastest producing refugee country in the world.

"For me it is unacceptable to see Syrian refugees drowning, dying in the Mediterranean or pushed back at some borders," he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu put the total number of refugees being sheltered by his country alone at 700,000, many of them in camps along the border.

"This meeting at Harran is an appeal to the international community and humanity to say 'enough' and not to remain silent to the big humanitarian tragedy," he said.

 

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Summary

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Friday it was vital that next week's peace talks find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria and the suffering of its people.

And he issued a fresh appeal for the world to ease the massive burden on countries sheltering millions of refugees since the conflict erupted almost three years ago.

'World's fastest producing refugee country' A donors' meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday pledged more than $2.4 billion for victims of the Syrian war, less than half the amount sought.

The number of refugees has grown fourfold in a year, from 588,000 at the end of 2012 to 2.4 million in late 2013 according to UN figures.

An additional 575,000 refugees are in Jordan, 562,000 in Turkey, 216,000 in Iraq and 145,000 in Egypt.


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