Jordan Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (centre) attends a conference at the European Council in Brussels on Thursday. Agence France-Presse
Brussels: International donors pledged nearly $7 billion in aid for 2019 for civilians caught up in Syria’s bloody civil war, the EU said on Thursday, but the total fell short of what the UN says is needed.
EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides announced the total at the end of a three-day conference in Brussels, on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the start of the conflict.
The European Union led the pledges with two billion euros, but the conference failed to drum up the $9 billion the United Nations said was needed to help the millions of Syrians forced to flee the country as well as those facing a humanitarian crisis at home.
Despite the shortfall, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said he was “very pleased with the outcome” but stressed that only a political solution could end the misery endured by Syrians as a result of the war.
Before the conference the UN estimated that $5.5 billion (4.4 billion euros) are needed to help the approximately 5.6 million Syrians forced to flee their country, most to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
A further $3.3 billion is needed for populations inside Syria facing a humanitarian situation described by the Medecins du Monde aid agency as “unsustainable”.
Germany pledged 1.44 billion euros, Washington almost $400 million and Britain some £400 million (464 million euros).
Donors must contend with US President Donald Trump’s demand that allies carry more of the burden. His government last year failed to submit a pledge, although US funding commitments eventually came in, EU diplomats said.
US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey, who is expected at the Brussels conference, said in a statement that he would “reaffirm US support for humanitarian assistance to all Syrians”.
The conference also underscores Europe’s dilemma in its efforts to isolate Assad as the United States pulls back its troops and the Syrian leader emerges victorious from the conflict, backed by Russia and Iran, diplomats say.
The EU has repeatedly made longer-term reconstruction support conditional on a UN-led peace process to end a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.