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Middle East

EU pledges millions more for Syria but worried over delivery

  • European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, left, speaks to the media during a news conference following the High Level Ministerial Event on the Humanitarian situation in Syria meeting at the European Union Delegation offices, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BRUSSELS: The European Union offered an extra 165 million euros of aid to victims of Syria's unrelenting civil war Tuesday while urging world powers to do more to ensure help reaches those trapped in the fighting.

"We see the humanitarian situation going from bad to worse, we have seen no improvement," EU Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told AFP before departing for a donor conference in Kuwait City, following the UN's largest appeal ever for a single emergency.

"This is most tragic for 225,000 people in besieged areas where there is no way for help to get in, or for people to get out," she said in an interview. "Access remains a major hurdle."

To get aid where it is needed, the EU's executive has been in contact both with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and with opposition fighters, as well as with interested parties Russia, Iran and the Gulf states.

She said it even recently relaxed its sanctions regime against the Assad government to enable Damascus if necessary to buy food, medicine or even cooking oil.

Inside Syria, "the hardliners, the Jihadists, they are those who are most determined to prevent access" to civilians in need, by attacking and abducting humanitarian workers and preventing the vaccination of children against polio, Georgieva said.

"But it is also important that the world as a whole is united to put an end to this madness," she added, notably urging Moscow and Tehran "to put pressure from all possible sides ... to use their authority to press for access."

Wednesday's pledging conference in Kuwait comes just a week before so-called 'Geneva II' peace talks to seek an end to fighting that has claimed 130,000 lives and sent 2.3 million fleeing the country.

The UN is seeking $6.5 billion (4.7 billion euros) at the Kuwait conference to assist refugees as well as 9.3 million Syrians inside the country.

The pledge by the EU, the globe's leading donor, would bring the bloc's aid to Syria to more than two billion euros.

Failure to reach a political deal soon risks creating a lost generation of youth who would perpetuate a conflict already threatening regional stability, Georgieva said.

She said the current fighting pitting moderate and Islamist opposition forces against the Al-Qaeda inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was further hampering access to the needy "because it is impossible to know who you are negotiating with to get to people."

To facilitate talks with the regime on aid distribution, the EU was considering whether to soon order the return of two or three diplomats to its office in Damascus, Georgieva said.

While inside Syria itself the main problem is lack of access to the most vulnerable, in countries neighbouring Syria that are harbouring millions of refugees the situation is almost untenable.

"The danger for Europe is if Lebanon falls apart, and that danger is real. We are now reaching levels of refugees that are simply not sustainable."

Countries in the 28-nation-bloc so far had offered refuge to some 60,000 Syrians "but the majority of refugees don't want to go far, they want to go home."

 
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Summary

The European Union offered an extra 165 million euros of aid to victims of Syria's unrelenting civil war Tuesday while urging world powers to do more to ensure help reaches those trapped in the fighting.

The UN is seeking $6.5 billion (4.7 billion euros) at the Kuwait conference to assist refugees as well as 9.3 million Syrians inside the country.

The pledge by the EU, the globe's leading donor, would bring the bloc's aid to Syria to more than two billion euros.

To facilitate talks with the regime on aid distribution, the EU was considering whether to soon order the return of two or three diplomats to its office in Damascus, Georgieva said.


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