Syria donors fall short without US aid, warn of cruel end-game

BRUSSELS: International donors pledged an estimated $4.4 billion in aid for 2018 to support people in Syria and the region, UN relief chief Mark Lowcock said on Wednesday, as the UN was seeking to fill a funding gap of more than $6 billion.
The conference, hosted by the European Union and the United Nations in Brussels, brought together more than 80 high-level delegations with the aim of mobilising financial support for the war-torn country.
“My best guess… is that, by end of the day, will have heard pledges for 2018 of $4.4 billion,” said Lowcock, as well as thanking the EU, Germany and Britain for their “exceptionally large” pledges.
Germany said it would donate an extra 1 billion euros ($1.22 billion), the EU said it would maintain its annual funding of 560 million euros, while Britain pledged an additional £200 million ($280 million).
Lowcock said that a lot of big donors, such as the United States, have not been able to confirm their pledges for the year because of internal budget processes.
He said that despite the funding shortfall, “there’s absolutely no question that without conferences of this sort and without the financing we secure, things would be a lot worse.”
The conference where most key global and regional powers were represented also aimed to breathe new life into the stalled UN-led peace process. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Iran and Russia, key allies of the Syrian government, to “exercise pressure on Damascus, so that it accepts to sit at the table under UN auspices.”
She said the conference had succeeded in providing a space for dialogue among countries regarding the way forward.
“Obviously, differences didn’t disappear over these few hours of talks, and we never expected that, but I believe we can say that we identified common ground on at least two or three issues,” Mogherini said.
The things agreed up including that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict; that the UN should have the leading role in the peace process; and that Syrians both inside the country and outside the country require international support.
UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who is trying to broker a political deal to end the conflict, said he had not expected a breakthrough from the conference either.
“But we did not have a confrontation, and they were all there in the room — so that’s a good sign,” De Mistura said.
The heads of UN agencies issued a call on Tuesday for donor countries to step up contributions to the UN’s annual $9.1-billion humanitarian appeal, which had received only $2.3 billion before the conference. — dpa