Sep 3 2013, 10:42am CDT | by IANS
Berlin/Ankara/Geneva, Sep 3 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that her country would not participate in a military strike against Syria for chemical weapons use without a UN mandate even as the UNHCR announced that the number of Syrian refugees has now touched two million.
Merkel, speaking during the final session of parliament before the Sep 22 election, called for a "collective response of the international community" to the crisis in Syria, saying that she would push for action at the upcoming G20 summit, reports Xinhua.
Germany is scheduled to elect a new parliament in less than three weeks. Recent polls showed that more than half of the German population opposes military action by western countries in Syria.
In their only televised debate Sunday, both Merkel and her challenger Peer Steinbrueck stressed that Germany would not participate in a military strike on Syria.
Merkel's remarks on the Syrian issue figuring at the G20 summit were echoed by Turkey whose Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the issue would be one of the most important items on the agenda of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg
"Big world powers interested in this issue will meet at a G20 summit," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying in Ankara.
"Our prime minister will also participate in the summit and plans to conduct some talks. Turkey's position and the country's principles are well known. I believe that meetings at the summit will be important," Atalay said.
The summit will be held in the Russian city Sep 5-6.
According to the deputy prime minister, the G20 leaders will also raise the problem of Syrian refugees and the need to fund aid programmes.
Meanwhile, UN refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees has reached two million and the figure is expected to rise to 3.5 million by the end of this year.
One third of the Syrians were displaced either inside or outside the war-torn country, Xinhua quoted UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as telling reporters in Geneva.
Among the two million refugees, the first million fled Syria in two years and the second million fled in six months, which reflected the enormity of the recent escalation of the conflict, he added.
The high commissioner said the situation is not only associated with human suffering but also has a terrible impact on the societies and countries that are hosting the Syrian refugees.
He called for more efforts in massive support for both Syrian refugees and hosting countries.
"Without that massive support, it will be much more difficult to preserve the stability of these countries and to avoid the spillover of this conflict," Guterres said, noting that a UNHCR programme in response to the Syrian refugee crisis is now funded only about 50 percent and other agencies are facing even more difficulties.
"This is a responsibility for the international community that is not only based on solidarity or generosity but it is clearly based on enlightened self interest," he said. "If we look at the Syrian crisis today, it is more than a national crisis, it has become a threat to global peace and security."
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