June 25, 2024

EU stays firm on Assad as donors contribute $6.1 billion for Syrians


International donors, led by the European Union (EU), have pledged 5.6 billion euros ($6.1 billion) in support of Syrian refugees.

According to a report on Thursday, the EU made it clear that it would not change its stance towards President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The gathering, chaired by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Brussels, saw the EU as the largest contributor, committing 3.8 billion euros.

The European Commission funded 55 percent of that amount, with the remaining 45 percent coming from individual EU member states, according to a report.

Among the 57 countries represented, the United States pledged $920 million, while Britain pledged £150 million.

“The grants and loans combined amounted to 9.6 billion euros, with an additional four billion euros committed in loans. These funds are designated to assist Syria’s neighboring countries, including Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, in hosting 5.4 million Syrian refugees, as well as millions of internally displaced Syrians,” the report says.

Borrell emphasized that the aid was exclusively targeted towards Syrians but clarified that it would not go to Assad’s government in Damascus.

He stated, “The European Union policy on Syria has not changed – we will not re-establish full diplomatic relations with the Assad regime or engage in reconstruction efforts until a genuine and comprehensive political transition is firmly underway, which is not the case.”

Borrell also underscored the importance of pursuing justice and accountability for the crimes committed during the prolonged conflict.

Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, has seen a gradual reduction in his international isolation, as evidenced by his recent reintegration into the Arab League. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein acknowledged the discussions surrounding Syria’s readmission to the League and expressed the intention to voice Iraq’s opinion on the matter.

Since 2011, Syria has endured a complex war that resulted in over 500,000 deaths, displacement of more than 12 million Syrians (with 5.4 million living as refugees in neighboring countries), and the involvement of foreign powers and extremist groups.

Borrell lamented the lack of progress in resolving the conflict and confirmed that the EU would maintain sanctions against Assad’s regime. The EU also insisted on voluntary, safe, and internationally monitored conditions for Syrians considering returning to their home country.

Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, characterized the current situation as an “inflection point” but highlighted the need for comprehensive addressing of the conflict’s causes and consequences. Uzra Zeya, the US representative, urged other donors to increase their contributions, emphasizing the significant challenges Syrians continue to face due to years of war, terrorism, and natural disasters. Zeya also stressed the importance of unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria and reaffirmed the UN Security Council’s resolution, which outlines a political transition in Damascus as the only viable solution to end the Syrian people’s suffering.

Compared to previous years, the grants pledged at this conference amounted to 5.6 billion euros, down from 6.4 billion euros raised last year and 5.3 billion euros in 2021.

Source: Agence France-Presse and SGP

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