As world leaders take to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly, Syria is on the mind. Three of Syria’s neighbors hard-hit by the conflict—Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon—pushed for a more heavy-handed political strategy on Tuesday to end a war that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül, whose country has taken in nearly half a million Syrian refugees since the start of the war, called the U.N. Security Council deadlock over Syria a “disgrace.” Once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey is now one of Assad’s biggest opponents.
“In short, we cannot and shall not leave the Syrian people to their fate,” President Gül said. “The burden of ending Syria's plight now rests on the shoulders of the international community. Strong words of support must now be matched by real deeds.”
The Turkish leader expressed his support for a U.S.-Russian agreement to remove Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, but insisted that it was in no way a solution to a crisis that “neither began with the use of chemical weapons, nor will end with an agreement to eliminate them.”
In a Sunday interview with The Washington Post, Gül said that Assad remaining in power was simply not an option.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II made a passionate plea for greater international response to a war he called a “global humanitarian and security disaster.”
Abdullah focused on the economic impacts of hosting over half a million Syrian refugees in his country, saying that his people could no longer “shoulder the burden” of what is not only a Syrian, or Jordanian, challenge, but a world challenge.
Ten percent of the Jordanian population is now made up of Syrian refugees, he said, adding that soon, the numbers could reach as high as 20 percent. Every day, more refugees flow across the border, further crippling an already struggling Jordanian economy.
“Not even the strongest global economies could absorb this demand on infrastructure and resources,” he said. “Let alone a small economy and the fourth-water-poorest country in the world.”
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said that the huge flow of Syrian refugees into his country was “far beyond Lebanon’s capacity of assimilation.” One quarter of the Lebanese population is now made up of Syrians, he said, adding that the war in Syria had the very real potential to spread to the greater region.
In his U.N. address Tuesday, President Obama stressed that if the Security Council does not agree on a Syria resolution, it will show that the “U.N. is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.”
Obama also pledged an additional $340 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians ravaged by civil war to help shoulder the financial burden imposed on Syria’s neighbors.
Addressing Syria’s staunch allies, Russia and Iran, President Obama stated that keeping Assad in power—a leader who “slaughtered his citizens and gassed children”—would only foster a place for violent extremists.
The notion that Syria could return to its pre-war status quo is what Obama called a mere "fantasy."