Jordan hosts over 2,100 Syria army defectors

A Syrian refugee girl sits on humanitarian aid boxes, received by her father at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Sept 8, 2013. More than 2,100 Syrian officers have fled to Jordan since the start of t
A Syrian refugee girl sits on humanitarian aid boxes, received by her father at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Sept 8, 2013. More than 2,100 Syrian officers have fled to Jordan since the start of the conflict in their country in 2011, the kingdom's interior minister said in remarks published on Sunday, Sept 15, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

AMMAN (AFP) - More than 2,100 Syrian officers have fled to Jordan since the start of the conflict in their country in 2011, the kingdom's interior minister said in remarks published on Sunday.

"Jordan is hosting around 2,130 Syrian officers of different military ranks in a special military complex," Hussein Majali told the government-owned Al-Rai daily.

"The kingdom will remain a safe heaven for everyone but this will not be at the expense of Jordan's safety and stability. Jordan has the ability to deal with the situation in a balanced manner."

Amman and the United Nations put the number of refugees in Jordan at more than 500,000, although the kingdom says 1.2 million Syrians are living in the country, including those from before the conflict.

"If a military strike against Syria takes place, the biggest threat would be mass exodus to Jordan," Mr Majali said. "Jordan was prepared to receive additional 150,000 refugees from Syria - 20,000 in the Zaatari camp and 130,000 in the Azraq camp."

The northern Zaatari camp near the border with Syria is home to more than 130,000 refugees. Over two million people have fled Syria since the war broke out there in 2011, mostly to neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

The United States and Russia on Saturday concluded three days of talks in Geneva with an ambitious agreement to dismantle and destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014.

It gives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a week to hand over details of his regime's stockpile of the internationally banned arms in order to avert unspecified sanctions and the threat of US-led military strikes.