Obama-Erdogan Meeting: Coordinated political action needed to address spiraling Syria crisis

By mhart

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today’s meetings between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan could be crucial steps in delivering the international momentum needed to ensure aid reaches those who need it, and move to put an end to the ongoing violence in Syria, said international humanitarian organization Oxfam. With nearly seven million people inside Syria in need of humanitarian assistance and 1.4 million refugees in surrounding countries like Turkey, today’s discussions must lead to urgent actions to address this deepening emergency.

“Cooperation between the United States and Turkey is vital. The two countries have distinct yet complementary strengths and must work together to find real, coordinated solutions that will save lives in Syria and bring stability to the region. Now is the time for Turkey to match its generous contributions to the humanitarian response with meaningful action to push for a political solution to the crisis,” said Noah Gottschalk, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor for Oxfam.

Last week, the United States pledged another $100 million in humanitarian support to Syrians (bringing the total to nearly $500 million). As President Obama recognized today, Turkey has also made significant humanitarian contributions on border of the Syrian conflict, hosting more than 200,000 refugees in 17 camps and around 200,000 more outside the camps as well as investing more than $750 million to date in response to this humanitarian crisis. This support is critical for the millions of civilians uprooted from their homes and living in camps and host communities throughout the region.

“International humanitarian funding is welcomed, but the demand is simply outweighing the supply. Aid organizations are scrambling to meet the needs and coordination is increasingly difficult in a fragmented and polarized context. Saving lives of civilian women, men and children caught in the crossfire and responding to their basic needs will become increasingly difficult unless common sense prevails, people are allowed to reach the aid they need, and violence stops,” said Gottschalk.

Increasing humanitarian aid, while vital, is not enough. As President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan continue their discussions this evening, more than 70,000 people have already been killed with more dying every day the conflict continues. Prime Minister Erdogan has previously called upon the United States to provide lethal assistance to Syrian opposition groups, but transfers of weapons and ammunition risks both prolonging conflict and further destabilizing countries in the region. It would also almost certainly contradict the principles of the recently-agreed Arms Trade Treaty that outlaws arms transfers, which pose an overriding risk of being used to commit serious abuses of human rights or international humanitarian law. The two governments must push for strong, coordinated political engagement from all sides. Support or providing more arms and ammunition to one side in Syria encourages other governments to increase arms supplies to the opposing side.

“Providing arms won’t ‘level the playing field’; it will fuel a relentless arms race with deadly consequences, both in the short and long term. The meeting today is an opportunity for the United States and Turkey to show leadership in the international community. Instead of arms support, leaders should focus on pressing the warring parties to ensure civilians are safe and can access aid, and work toward a lasting political solution,” said Gottschalk.