Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages
Turkey and the United States* agreed on Saturday to form a working group that will plan a joint response to the violence in Syria as well as prepare for the possible overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. While the United States said it would provide an additional $5.5 million in aid to refugees, the two countries also emphasized they will be planning for the worst case scenario of a chemical weapons attack, reports the New York Times.
“What the minister and I agreed to was to have very intensive operational planning,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said alongside Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details.”
When Clinton was specifically asked about whether the United States was exploring the possibility of a no-fly zone over rebel territory, she emphasized that the issue needs “greater in-depth analysis.” Even though the remarks were decidedly non-committal, they were “nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria,” notes Reuters.
"Our number-one goal is to hasten the end of the bloodshed and the Assad regime," Clinton said, adding that two million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, reports BBC News.
Meanwhile, gunmen in Damascus managed to detonate roadside bombs and hold brief clashes with police on Saturday. Although the attacks caused no damage it was a demonstration of how rebels have been able to foil the intense security around the Syrian capital. The Associated Press notes rebels are increasingly carrying out guerrilla-style operations to undermine the regime’s claims that it has full control over the capital.
*Correction: An earlier version of this sentence identified the two countries as Turkey and Syria instead of Syria and the United States.