Syrian exodus to go on if chemical attack ignored: Turkey

GENEVA Wed Sep 4, 2013 11:57am EDT

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara August 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

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GENEVA (Reuters) - The Syrian refugee crisis may worsen if there is no international reaction in response to last month's alleged chemical weapons attack, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.

"If the same trend continues... and there is no international reaction to it, we are scared neighboring countries face much bigger numbers of refugees," he said at a news conference in Geneva hosted by the U.N. refugee agency.

The two-year Syrian conflict has escalated, driving 2 million refugees abroad, uprooting 5 million within the country and taking at least 100,000 lives, Davutoglu said.

"If the international community, if especially the Security Council was united at early stages of escalation of tensions, today we wouldn't have all these difficult options on the table," he said.

The United States and allies are preparing to bypass any Russian veto at the Security Council and launch military strikes against Damascus, which they accuse of conducting a chemical weapons attack on August 21. Syria denies the charge.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a glimpse of international compromise over Syria on Wednesday, declining to entirely rule out Russian backing for military action as he prepared to host a summit of world leaders.

"For me with this strike or without, the longer it takes in Syria, the more the regime feels that they are secure, the more refugees we will be having in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Turkey and maybe in Iraq and other places," said Lebanon's minister for social affairs, Wael Abu Faour.

(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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