Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan 370 (R).
(photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan - Syrian refugees angrily told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that the United States should set up a no-fly zone and safe havens in Syria to protect them.
Visiting a camp that holds roughly 115,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan about 12 km (eight miles) from the Syrian border, Kerry spent about 40 minutes with half a dozen refugees who vented their frustration at the international community's failure to end Syria's more than two-year-old civil war.
He told them Washington was considering various options, including buffer zones for their protection, but that the situation was complex and much was still under consideration.
"Where is the international community? What are you waiting for?" a Syrian woman, who did not give her name, told Kerry at the United Nations' Zaatari refugee camp. "We hope that you will not go back to the States before you find a solution to the crisis
. At least impose a no-fly zone or an embargo." Waving a pen in the air and tapping it on the table, the woman referred to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ends in three weeks. She said: "Mr. Secretary, if the situation remains unchanged until the end of Ramadan this camp will become empty. We will return to Syria and we will fight with knives.
"You, as the US government look to Israel with respect. Cannot you do the same with the children of Syria?" NOT "CUT AND DRY"
Kerry made an aerial tour of the tents and pre-fabricated, container-like homes that form by far the biggest camp for Syrians in Jordan. Meeting refugees afterward in a fenced-off administrative section, he acknowledged the anger.
"They are frustrated and angry at the world for not stepping in and helping," Kerry told reporters.
"I explained to them I don't think it's as cut and dry and as simple as some of them look at it. But if I were in their shoes I would be looking for help from wherever I could find it." Kerry did not enter the area of the vast camp where the refugees live, but kept to the adjacent, fenced-off administrative area where humanitarian officials work and live. The half dozen refugees came to meet Kerry in a conference room within the administrative zone.
"We are not satisfied with the American answer. We never were. We just need ... action," a second woman told reporters after meeting Kerry.
During the meeting, Kerry told the refugees that many young Americans had died or lost their limbs "fighting for the freedom of Iraq" and "fighting for the freedom of Afghanistan".
After the request for buffer and no-fly zones, Kerry said: "A lot of different options are under consideration. I wish it was very simple. As you know, we've been fighting two wars for 12 years. We are trying to help in various ways, including helping Syrian opposition fighters have weapons.
"We are doing new things. There is consideration of buffer zones and other things but it is not as simple as it sounds."