ISTANBUL — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday that their countries are creating a formal structure to plan for worst-case scenarios in Syria, including a possible chemical weapons attack on regime opponents.
Clinton and Davutoglu said their two nations would set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.
“We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments,” Clinton said.
Among the contingencies that the US and Turkey agree on the need to plan for is “the horrible event” that chemical weapons are used, Clinton said.
“What would that mean in terms of response, humanitarian and medical emergency assistance and, of course, what needs to be done to secure those stocks from ever being used or falling into the wrong hands?” Clinton said.
Davutoglu hinted at the possibility of setting up a so-called “safe zone” inside Syria if the humanitarian crisis, which has already claimed thousands of lives, triggers a massive flow of refugees who are vulnerable to attack by regime forces.
“Of course, we might try to protect people if they seek refuge in our territory, but if they have to live under continuous bombardment every day, if they are exposed to air strikes every day, and bombardment every day, this might even be considered a war crime.”
Davutoglu said without elaborating: “In such a case, the international community can no longer keep its silence and there are certain measures that need to be taken up ... We need to brace for impact.”
Syrian, Jordanian forces clash
Syrian and Jordanian forces clashed along the border overnight in an incident that highlighted international concerns that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.
The border clash broke out after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.
Syrian troops fired across the frontier and fighting ensued, a Jordanian said. No one was reported killed on Jordan’s side. — Agencies