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Donors stump up $6.1 bn for Syrians, as EU stays anti-Assad


International donors led by the EU on Thursday pledged 5.6 billion euros ($6.1 billion) for Syrian refugees, but Brussels stressed it will not ease its stance on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The gathering, held in Brussels and chaired by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, saw the European Union overall commit the most money, 3.8 billion euros.

The European Commission said it stumped up 55 percent of that amount, while the other 45 percent came from individual EU member states.

The United States, among the 57 countries represented, pledged $920 million.

Britain pledged £150 million..

The grants promised are for this year and beyond, to help Syria’s neighboring countries — including Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — hosting 5.4 million Syrian refugees, as well as millions of Syrians displaced in their own country.

In addition, the donors committed another four billion euros in loans. The combined grants and loans amount is 9.6 billion euros.

Borrell said the EU pledged another 560 million euros in grants for 2024, a sum which was to grow further as other EU contributions were added to it.

While all the aid is earmarked to help Syrians, Borrell stressed it was not going to the Damascus government led by Assad.

“The European Union policy on Syria has not changed — we will not re-establish full diplomatic relations with the Assad regime or start working on reconstruction until a genuine and comprehensive political transition is firmly on the way, which is not the case.”

He added that “we have to remain committed to the justice and accountability for the crimes committed during more than a decade of conflict.”

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 “sharp discussions” in Brussels about Syria being allowed to re-join the League, “but we have an opinion and we will express our opinions”.

– Conflict continues –

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

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

“Unfortunately, over the last year there has been little progress, very little progress, towards a resolution of the Syria conflict,” 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.
The UN’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, told the conference that, while he believed “we are at an inflection point” on Syria, “the causes and consequences of the conflict are still not being comprehensively addressed”.

The US representative, State Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya, called on other donors to increase contributions “as Syrians continue to face severe challenges from years of war, terrorism, and natural disaster”.

She also said “unfettered humanitarian access” to all parts of Syria was needed, and reaffirmed that a political transition in Damascus, as set out in a UN Security Council resolution, “remains the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people”.

The 5.6 billion euros in grants pledges made Thursday compared with 6.4 billion euros raised at last year’s donors’ conference for Syrians, and 5.3 billion euros at the one in 2021.


©️ Agence France-Presse

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