UNITED NATIONS — Major obstacles confront any bid to set up safe zones for refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, the foreign ministers of France and Britain warned Thursday, while insisting they would not rule out future action.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius highlighted the military and diplomatic hurdles blocking special zones ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Syria’s humanitarian crisis.
Turkey was expected to reaffirm its call for safe zones inside Syria at the ministerial meeting.
Hague told a joint press conference with Fabius there are “considerable difficulties” with the idea.
“We are excluding no option for the future. We do not know how this crisis will develop,” he said.
“It is steadily getting worse. We are ruling nothing out, we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios,” Hague added.
“But we also have to be clear that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention and that of course is something that has to be weighed very carefully.”
Hague and Fabius said the UN Security Council — bitterly divided over the 17-month-old Syria conflict — would be unlikely to give its crucial agreement to any military operation to protect a safe zone.
Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions which could have led to economic sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad over the conflict and totally rejected any military intervention.
Fabius echoed Hague’s message. He also said “large-scale” military resources had to be found to protect refugees but said the conflict was almost certain to worsen and “then we will have to look at the different solutions.”
Turkey has said there are more than 80,000 Syrians in camps in its territory and it will not be able to cope when the number reaches 100,000.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday he was in talks with the United Nations on sheltering refugees inside Syria.
“We expect the United Nations to step in for the protection of refugees inside Syria and if possible housing them in camps there,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency on Wednesday.
The United Nations says there are now 221,000 refugees registered in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq which are all worried about security fallout from the influx.
Numbers fleeing Syria have grown in recent weeks as Assad’s forces have stepped up their battle with opposition rebels. Syrian activists say more than 25,000 people have died in the conflict, while the United Nations puts the figure at almost 20,000.
France and Britain also announced new financial aid to UN efforts to help relief efforts inside Syria and in the camps in neighboring countries.
France will give five million euros ($6.2 million) on top of the 20 million euros already allocated. Britain will give an extra three million pounds ($4.75 million) on top of the 27.5 million pounds it has already contributed.
A UN appeal for $373 million for relief operations for Syria and refugee camps outside the country has raised barely $196 million.
The United Nations said fresh cash is urgently needed, and Fabius and Hague said other countries had to step up financial assistance.
“We call on other nations to increase their funding — and on Security Council members to set a strong lead,” Hague said.
Fabius said much of the new French money would go to “liberated areas” inside Syria which are now in opposition control.
The UN estimates there are 1.2 million displaced people sheltering in public buildings and many more sought refuge with family and friends to escape cities where Assad’s forces are battling opposition rebels.
Some 2.5 million people have been affected by the conflict and a UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimate made in June said three million people are “food insecure”.