EU pledges 560 mn euros for Syrians fleeing war

AFP , Thursday 15 Jun 2023

The European Union on Thursday pledged 560 million euros ($600 million) to help countries neighbouring Syria cope with the costs of hosting Syrians displaced by the years of conflict in their country.

Belgium donors conference
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, right, and United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, left, during a meeting Supporting the future of Syria and the region at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, June 15, 2023. AP


"Unfortunately, over the last year there has been little progress, very little progress, towards a resolution of the Syria conflict," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he announced the pledge at an international donors' conference in Brussels.

He emphasised that the aid was for Syrians, not the Damascus government led by President Bashar al-Assad.

Since 2011, more than 500,000 people have been killed in Syria after Assad's brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters plunged the country into a complex war that drew in foreign powers and jihadists.

The UN says more than 12 million Syrians were displaced by the conflict, most of them inside Syria, though with 5.4 million living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Despite UN efforts, "the conditions are not in place for the European Union to change its policy on Syria", which would require "genuine political reforms" in the country, Borrell said.

The EU will maintain its sanctions on Assad's regime and not support the return of Syrians to that country unless they are "voluntary", safe and monitored by international groups, he said.

Assad, who stayed in power thanks to support from allies Iran and Russia, has become less of an international pariah by being welcomed back last month into the Arab League.

"This conference comes at the right time, especially after Syria returns to its seat in the Arab League," Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said as he arrived for the Brussels conference.

He acknowledged there would be "sharp discussions" on Syria's re-joining the League, "but we have an opinion and we will express our opinions".

Last year's donors' conference in Brussels for displaced Syrians raised pledges of $6.7 billion, and the one before that $6.4 billion.

In each of those, the EU pledged one billion euros.

While it was offering around half that this time, in March the EU pledged 950 million euros for Syrians in a separate donors' conference that raised $7 billion to help Turkey and Syria in the wake of a massive earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people.

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