Statements By U.S. Officials
Secretary Clinton on Syria-Turkey Border:
June 23, 2011
Excerpt from the Remarks with Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario After Their Meeting
Question: Hi, Madam Secretary and Mr. Secretary. If I could take you to a different region, if you don’t mind. There are reports that Syria is sending tanks to its border with Turkey to prevent refugees from being able to cross the border. Your Ambassador was recently in that region. What can you tell us about anything he may have seen while he was there? What is your message to the Syrian Government? And if I could ask you what your advice would be to the Turkish Government as they prepare to respond to this.
And also, Madam Secretary, there’s reports that another flotilla may be headed to Gaza within the next couple days. What is your message to the organizers and participants in that? Thank you.
Secretary Clinton: Well, we are very concerned by the reports that the Syrian military has surrounded and targeted the village of Khirbet al-Jouz, which is located roughly 500 meters from the Turkish border. If true, that aggressive action will only exacerbate the already unstable refugee situation in Syria. And we’ve seen increased refugee flows across the border into Turkey. Recent reports are that there are more than 10,500 Syrians already sheltered by the Turkish Red Crescent in camps on the border.
I have discussed this at length with the foreign minister of Turkey. President Obama has discussed it with the prime minister. We are closely monitoring the situation in Syria and in neighboring countries, and it is further example of the lengths to which President Assad’s regime will go to repress the people of Syria rather than actually working in a collaborative way to try to resolve the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people. And it just is very clear to us that unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their provocations that are not only now affecting their own citizens but endangering the potential border clashes, then we’re going to see an escalation of conflict in the area. And the United States is already providing humanitarian assistance. We are closely consulting with Turkey. But this is a very worrisome development by the Syrians. They have to know what they’re doing and they have to, I assume, know their own history, because this is not the first time that they have had a provocation that led the Turks to take action to protect their own interests.
Question: (Inaudible) flotilla (inaudible)?
Secretary Clinton: Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.