Clinton: Syria risking regional escalation

Thursday 23 June 2011 22.24
Border - Wire fence between two countries
Border - Wire fence between two countries

The United States is concerned that Syria's move to mass troops near the border with Turkey could escalate the crisis in the region and is discussing the issue with Turkish officials, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

‘Unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their provocations that are not only now affecting their own citizens but endangering the potential of border clashes, then we're going to see an escalation of conflict in the area,’ Mrs Clinton told reporters.

She was responding to a deployment by the Syrian military on the Turkish border last night as part of the government’s increasingly violent response to pro-democracy demonstrations.

The troops, backed by tanks, stormed a Syrian border village where many of the displaced had massed, according to activists in the area.

Refugees from the north-western province of Idlib said armoured vehicles and troops were now as close as 500m from the border in the Khirbat al-Joz area.

Several hundred of the displaced Syrians broke through the barbed wire marking the frontier between the two countries and were seen advancing into Turkish territory.

They were likely heading towards tent cities the Turkish Red Crescent has erected in the border province of Hatay, where more than 10,000 Syrians are already sheltering.

The pro-reform protests in the country have been on-going for the past three months with rights groups claiming there has been 1,300 civilian deaths during that time.

The Syrian government has claimed the revolt was sparked by foreign powers trying to destabilise the country but this has been denied by protest groups.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists have marked 100 days of protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, vowing to push on their fight for 'a free and democratic Syria'.

'We emphasise that our peaceful revolution will continue until the fall of the regime and until we build a new, free and democratic Syria,' the local coordinating committees organising the protests said in a statement.

The statement was issued to mark 100 days since the beginning of a 'revolution for freedom, dignity and citizenship', the group said.

Despite a deadly military crackdown and the arrests of thousands, the movement said it has not lost momentum.

'One hundred days have passed and the Syrian people are still being killed before the eyes of the world, under the cover of Arab silence and shy international condemnation,' the statement said.