EUROPEAN UNION (OBSERVATORY) – The European Union called on Russia and Iran on Wednesday to press Syria to engage in talks to end the bloody war, while international donors pledged billions of dollars to help Syrian civilians suffering from the conflict.
The EU foreign minister said Moscow and Tehran, the main allies of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, had a duty to help stop the eight-year-old war.
More than 80 countries, aid groups and UN agencies are meeting in Brussels on the second day of a conference on Syria’s future after the UN special envoy warned Syria of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Islamist-controlled Idlib region.
Europe is also seeking to use the conference to relaunch UN-led peace talks in Geneva, which have made little progress after eight rounds. This is in part due to the lack of interest of the Assad government in these talks. Russia, Iran and Turkey also launched parallel talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana last year.
“We want Russia and Iran, in particular, to put pressure on Damascus to accept to sit on the table under the auspices of the United Nations,” Mugherini said when she arrived at the seventh meeting of its kind. “We believe that the only lasting peace that could be in Syria must be linked to a political process under the auspices of the United Nations,” she said.
Moscow has repeatedly defended Syria at the United Nations, the last time after a presumed chemical attack in the town of Douma blamed the West for its responsibility for Assad’s forces.
British Development Minister Benny Murdon will call on the conference participants to increase pressure on Moscow.
According to her office, the British minister said: “By using its veto 12 times at the United Nations on Syria, Russia has given the green light to Assad to commit humanitarian atrocities against his people.
“We are here to address the urgent humanitarian needs in Syria and the wider region, but we all know that the only solution to end the suffering in Syria is the political settlement that brings peace.
– Serious resource shortage –
The United Nations says it needs more than $ 9 billion this year to carry out its humanitarian work in Syria and support refugees in neighboring countries.
Part of the amount has been obtained. But Mark Loftchuk, director of the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency, told AFP he hoped to receive $ 8 billion in pledges on Wednesday, warning that some programs could be suspended if funding was not obtained.
“We are suffering from a serious shortage of resources,” Levchuk said, adding that the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had managed to raise half of the required funds in 2017.
London and Berlin led pledges on Wednesday. Britain announced 450 million pounds (630 million dollars) for 2018 and 300 million pounds for 2019, while Germany said it would donate more than one billion euros.
About 6.1 million people have been displaced inside Syria, more than 5 million have fled the country, and 13 million people, including six million children, need assistance, according to the United Nations.
More than 700,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year as Assad’s regime intensified its attacks against insurgents, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura called on the international community Tuesday for a new humanitarian disaster in Syria in Idlib. “We were and still are concerned about the humanitarian aspect of Idlib, because it is the new big challenge with 2.5 million people,” he said.
“We hope this will be an occasion to ensure that Idlib does not turn into a new Aleppo or New East Gauta because the dimensions are quite different here,” he said.
Idlib, controlled by rival factions, may face the same fate as Aleppo, which was seized by the regime in an attack backed by Russia in late 2016 and the eastern Ghouta, which was restored early April.