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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference after the fourth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' in Brussels, Belgium

Official: Syria donors conference pledges 6.9 billion euros

Almost 7 billion euros were pledged today to support war-torn Syria at a donor conference in Brussels. Around 60 countries and international agencies gathered to drum up financial aid for the Arab nation as the corona-virus and economic chaos wreak even more havoc in a country shattered by a conflict now in its 10th year.

By Arthur Blok
The European Union and the United Nations co-chaired the fourth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”. In light of the necessary social distancing measures, the Conference was largely held in a virtual format.

The Syrian war has killed more than 400,000 people and sparked a refugee exodus that has destabilised Syria’s neighbours and impacted Europe. Around 11 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and some 9 million don’t have enough to eat. More than half of the population have no jobs.

The corona-virus has sparked “a multitude of new and complex challenges including the restriction of movement and goods, the delay of certain field activities, the closure of borders and a critical insufficiency of protective equipment for staff and volunteers,” International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies President Francesco Rocca said Tuesday.

The EU has reported that in 2019 donors contributed 8.9 billion euros ($10 billion) in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The United Nations currently requires about $3.8 billion for its Syria-related work.

It will be the eighth Syria pledging conference, and the fourth hosted by the EU, which estimates that it has donated around 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to Syria and the region over the years. Around 60 countries, key U.N. agencies and others involved in the conflict are expected to take part.

Beyond its economic impact, the coronavirus also forced the conference to be held online. The meetings are usually an important opportunity for officials to discuss thorny issues and resolve problems, but officials worry that the virtual format might reduce this years’ conference to a number-crunching exercise.

Refugees
The Conference also highlighted the importance of the solidarity shown by host countries and communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as other host countries in the region such as Egypt and Iraq while underlining the challenges they face in the medium and long term.

“Syria continues to find itself in protracted instability. The needs of the Syrian refugees remain acute, not least in view of the potentially devastating socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In this context, our commitment to supporting Syrian refugees in the region remains unwavering. The 2020 Brussels IV Conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to mobilise the necessary financial assistance for Syria and neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees,” said Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement.

“The crisis in Syria continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of Syrians – inside and outside Syria. The world’s attention may move on – but the crisis in Syria stays with us. And the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse. For Brussels IV, our humanitarian agenda is simple: first, make sure the international community maintains its support for people who are more vulnerable than ever. And second, make sure the humanitarian assistance we provide can reach people wherever they find themselves in Syria or beyond its borders,” added Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management.

United States
James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, said there could be no economic normalisation with the Assad regime until a political solution to the conflict had been found. However, he rejected announcements on Tuesday from the Kremlin that Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold a video conference on Wednesday to discuss the conflict in Syria.

“The United States does not see the Astana group as a particularly helpful way to resolve the Syrian conflict. It has worked out a series of ceasefire agreements and in all but Idlib those ceasefire agreements have been totally trashed and Assad’s forces have gone in,” he said. He added that the group had sought to seize the initiative of peace talks from the UN: “We are opposed to that as well.”

Source: with various agencies

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