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Syrian refugees demand help from Kerry at camp

Agencies | Updated: 2013-07-19 09:23

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP - 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 their fellow citizens.

Syrian refugees demand help from Kerry at camp

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to reporters as Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh (R) looks on during a visit to Zaatari refugee camp, near the Jordanian city of Mafraq July 18, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

Visiting a camp that holds roughly 115,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan about 12 km (8 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 civil war.

He told them Washington was considering options, including buffer zones for their protection, but that the situation was complex and appeared to hint at war fatigue in the United States after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"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. "At least impose a no-fly zone or an embargo.

"The US, as a superpower, can change the equation in Syria in 30 minutes after you return to Washington."

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?"

Kerry took a helicopter tour of the tents and pre-fabricated, container-like homes that form by far the biggest camp for Syrians in Jordan. Meeting refugees afterwards 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."

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