Kurdish government concerned over Syrian refugees

Oct. 22, 2012 at 1:37 PM
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ERBIL, Iraq, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The semiautonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq said it expects the number of Syrian refugees there to reach 50,000 by year's end.

Kurdish Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa met with U.N. officials at his office in Erbil to discuss the humanitarian situation in neighboring Syria. The Kurdish government said it's received around 35,000 refugees from Syria and that number could reach 50,000 in the next 10 weeks.

"This is an international crisis and it is affecting the entire Middle East and the broader region," he said in a statement.

The minister added that humanitarian assistance was falling short given the escalating crisis across the border.

"There are already many shortages but these will become much more critical as winter sets in," he said.

The Kurdish government estimates around 320,000 people have fled the violence in Syria since conflict began there in early 2011. Now characterized as a civil war, fighting in Syria has left around 30,000 people dead.

Despite near-universal condemnation of the bloodshed, the crisis is threatening to spill across the borders to ensnare Lebanon. A car bombing last week in Beirut claimed the life of former Lebanese intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.

Turkey, Iran and U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi have called for a short-term truce in Syria during the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

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