US announces $696 mln in additional humanitarian aid for Syria at Brussels meet

The United States has announced additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement on Tuesday at the fourth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” hosted by the EU.

“At today’s fourth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, hosted by the EU,” Pompeo said that the Special Representative for Syria Engagement Ambassador James Jeffrey has “announced more than $696 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria in response to the ongoing crisis caused by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces.”

“This brings the total US humanitarian response to more than $11.3 billion since the start of the Syria crisis,” he said.

Videoconference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the Region’ at the European Council building in Brussels on June 30, 2020. (AFP)
Videoconference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the Region’ at the European Council building in Brussels on June 30, 2020. (AFP)

 

At the virtual conference, the United Nations pushed governments for nearly $10 billion in aid for Syria, where nine years of war has displaced millions in a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by soaring food prices and the coronavirus crisis.

The now annual fund-raising round for Syria brought together60 governments and non-official agencies via video in an event
hosted by the European Union (EU) and due to end at 1600 GMT.

“Syrian men, women and children have experienced injury,displacement, destruction, terror … on a massive scale,” said
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.

“The danger of COVID-19 remains acute.”

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, there haveonly been 269 confirmed cases, but the World Health Organization
(WHO) has warned the real situation is probably far worse andthe number of infections likely to accelerate.

Humanitarian aid being distributed in northwest Syria. (MSF)
Humanitarian aid being distributed in northwest Syria. (MSF)

 

In his statement, Pompeo said: “From December to March, in response to bombing by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces, nearly one million people in northwest Syria –- more than 80 percent of whom were women and children –- fled in fear for their lives. Following an early March ceasefire, over 270,000 people returned to areas of origin in northwest Syria, but approximately 700,000 remain forcibly displaced.

“The US strongly supports UN Secretary General Guterres’ recommendation to restore cross-border access between northeast Syria and Iraq to deliver aid and medicine.”

Pompeo accused Russia and China of cynically conspiring to hamper the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable areas in Syria through UN Security Council Resolution 2504, which reduced humanitarian border crossings into Syria from four to two, decreased the authorization process for six months, and stopped 40 percent of the medical aid to northeast Syria, thereby increasing an already significant gap in meeting humanitarian needs at a time of a global pandemic.

“The US supports freedom of movement for all, including forcibly displaced persons and conflict-affected Syrians, as well as the safe, voluntary, and dignified return or resettlement and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons in a process that is free from coercion. We reaffirm our commitment to a credible and inclusive Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political solution pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” Pompeo said.

‘Must end suffering’

The UN, which last year raised $7 billion, said this year it needs $3.8 billion for aid inside Syria where 11 million people require help and protection, with more than 9.3 million of them lacking adequate food.

Another $6.04 billion is sought to help the 6.6 million Syrians who have fled in the world’ biggest refugee crisis.

Adding to Syrians’ hardship, an economic slump and COVID-19 lockdown have pushed food prices more than 200 percent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

However, rebuilding destroyed cities will take billions of dollars more and cannot start until powers involved back a peaceful transition away from the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, the EU says.

“We must do more to end the suffering of the Syrian people. First and foremost, we need a political solution to the crisis,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell told the conference.

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