EU pledges 8 billion euros, US $400 million in aid to Syrian refugees
WASHINGTON / BERLIN
The European Union and the United States announced on March 14 that they will be providing more humanitarian aid to further assist relief efforts for the Syrian crisis at a conference held by the European Union to coordinate EU help to the war-torn country.
The EU’s Syria Conference succeeded in mobilizing pledges totaling 8.3 billion euros for 2019-20 and beyond, out of which 6.2 billion euros are for 2019, and multiyear pledges close to 2.1 billion euros.
Of the overall pledge, around two thirds came from the European Union, which has contributed a total of 6.79 billion euros, with 2.57 billion euros from the EU budget managed by the European Commission and 4.22 billion euros from EU member states. Out of the 2.57 billion euros from the EU budget, 2.01 billion euros are committed for 2019, while 560 million euros have already been committed for 2020 for people in need inside Syria and in the region.
“Our goal remains the same: A Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political process, facilitated by the United Nations, to establish an inclusive and non-sectarian governance for a united Syria. This is what we are all trying to work for and this is also the main reason why we convened the Brussels Conference. All of us must use our leverage to relaunch the Geneva negotiations and put an end to the war in Syria. Freezing the conflict at its current stage is not a solution,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
The U.S.’s decision to pledge an additional fund to the Syrian refugees was announced by the State Department.
The new funds will be used to assist non-governmental organizations like the U.N.’s refugee agency — the UNHCR — and the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in providing food, shelter, medicine and education to 12 million people in Syria, as well as nearly 6 million refugees living in nearby countries.
“The United States reaffirms its support for freedom of movement for all displaced people and the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons in a process that is free from coercion.”
The bulk of the funds, or around $135 million, will be going to Syria, where they will be used for not only food and shelter but also “critical relief supplies and much-needed counseling and protection programs” for the most vulnerable people in the country.
In addition to Syria, the countries receiving U.S. aid as part of the Syrian relief efforts include Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
$81 million will be given to Turkey
The U.S. will also be giving nearly $81 million in aid to Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest number of Syrian refugees — 3.5 million. Those funds will be directed towards supporting schools and psychosocial programs for refugee communities in the country.
With the new funds, Washington has now given roughly $9.5 billion to aid Syrian relief efforts since the conflict began, according to the State Department. The announcement of additional aid comes a day after the UNHCR issued a joint statement with two other UN agencies calling for increased funding towards relief efforts inside Syria as well as the regional refugee and resilience program, which supports countries that host Syrian refugees.
Germany pledges 1.4 billion euros for Syrian refugees
Germany also announced on March 14 that it pledged 1.44 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that Germany would strongly support the European Union and U.N.’s humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
“Until conditions in Syria make voluntary return in safety and dignity a genuine option, the world cannot leave the people there and in neighboring countries to cope on their own,” he said.
“That is why, at this year’s Brussels Conference on Syria, Germany is making available a total of 1.44 billion euros,” he added. Germany’s top diplomat also called on the Syrian regime and other parties to the conflict to adhere to humanitarian principles.
“All parties to the conflict must allow full humanitarian access to all population groups and adhere to the rules of international humanitarian law. The displaced must be protected against persecution and their fundamental rights and property rights must be guaranteed,” he said.
Germany warns over Idlib
Amid recent regime shelling and Russian airstrikes in Syria’s Idlib province, Maas warned against a dangerous escalation of an already tense situation in the region.
“Developments in Idlib in particular are a source of grave concern to us. Any renewed flare-up of the fighting must be avoided at all cost,” he said. The recent attacks inside Idlib’s de-escalation zone killed at least 15 civilians, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.