British Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt visited Turkey this week to meet representatives from the Syrian Opposition
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, has been in Turkey this week. His programme included meetings with senior representatives of the Syrian National Coalition, and a visit to a camp in Gaziantep province which hosts more than 10,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their home country.
Writing in the Turkish press, Mr. Burt said:
“My visit to Turkey this week has given me a stark reminder of the scale of the humanitarian tragedy which Basar Assad has inflicted on the Syrian people. Almost 100,000 people have been killed. 6 million have left their homes, many finding refuge in Turkey. The United Nations estimates that, on current trends, some 10 million Syrians will have been forced to flee their homes by the end of this year. That would be half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Turkey has suffered grievously at the hands of the Assad regime. Turkish citizens have lost their lives and their livelihoods as a result of shelling from the Syrian side of the border. And I know the Turkish Government has attributed the terrorist atrocity which took place in Reyhanlı in May to groups with ties to the Syrian regime. My deepest sympathies go the friends and families of the 53 victims of this attack. The UK stands ready to help the Turkish Government bring the perpetrators to justice.
I commend the Turkish Government’s humanitarian response to the crisis. Turkey has opened its doors to more than 400,000 Syrians in dire need – a number that increases day by day. That generosity is impressive and welcome. During my visit to a camp in Gaziantep province this week, I saw how the Turkish Government is working to ensure that Syrians fleeing the violence are given a dignified reception and access to humanitarian aid.
Part of the reason for my visit is to emphasise that Turkey is not alone in handling the humanitarian fallout from the Syrian conflict. The UK’s emergency funding to Syria and the region now stands at £348 million. This is the biggest funding package the UK has ever committed to a single crisis. Our donations have helped to provide food for almost 260,000 people a month; ensured supplies of drinking water for almost 1 million people; and covered the cost of almost 300,000 medical consultations since the crisis began.
We are also increasing our assistance to the moderate Syrian Opposition who we recognize as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. The UK has already provided more than £12million in non-lethal assistance to the moderate Opposition, local councils and civil society. We have provided armoured vehicles, body armour, generators, communications equipment and training for human rights activists. We will provide an additional £20m in non-lethal assistance in the coming months. The UK is also examining how we can establish civil policing structures in Opposition-held areas and the supply of protective equipment against the use of chemical weapons.
While we are committed to helping Turkey and other countries in the region to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe, I recognise that only a lasting political solution will end the suffering. That’s why the UK is putting its full weight behind the Geneva II peace process. The G8 has agreed that this should deliver a transitional governing body with full executive authority. Given the need for such a transitional body to win the consent of all Syrians, it is impossible to see how Assad could be part of it.”