High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, addresses a press conference following the sixth 'Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region' at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 10 May 2022 | Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, addresses a press conference following the sixth 'Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region' at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 10 May 2022 | Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday announced the allocation for 2022 of a billion and a half euros by the EU for Syrians in Syria as well as refugees and the communities hosting them in the region.

The European Union has not forgotten the tragic situation that Syrians are suffering from, victims of a war that for over 11 years has generated "enormous needs" across the entire region.

However, it does not intend to invest in reconstruction of the country until there is a "true transition of power" in Damascus involving the disputed president Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Moscow.

This was noted by the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday (May 10) in opening the 6th international Donors' Conference on Syria and the region and announcing the allocation of €1.5 billion euros from the EU for 2022.

Almost €6.5 billion euros total were pledged in Brussels for the next two years.

Almost 6.5 billion for Syria

For the first time in six years Russia was not invited to the conference on Syria, a country where Russian troops have been present since 2015 as part of its longstanding strategic alliance with Damascus.

"We are inviting those partners who have a genuine interest to contribute to peace in the world and to help victims of conflict. Through its aggression on Ukraine, Russia has proven that it is not sharing this interest," Borrell said.

He added that the EU and its partners would continue to exclude Russia from international fora.

The EU's financial efforts for Syria and the region came in addition to those of numerous other member states of the EU and other countries as well as international organizations.

The countries taking part in the Brussels donors conference pledged a total of €6.4 billion for 2022 and 2023: 4.1 billion this year and 2.3 billion for the following year.

An additional €1.7 billion will be made available in the form of loans.

"While war rages in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria is entering its 12th year. We must not forget the Syrian people," Borrell said, urging efforts to push for peace.

"Certainly, Syria and the suffering of its people might not be in center of the news anymore. There is a certain fatigue after eleven years -- but it remains on our minds. 90% of the Syrians living in Syria live in poverty. 90%, it means almost everybody, minus [Bashar al-] Assad and their clique, but the Syrian people, 90% live in poverty. 60% suffer from food insecurity and often do not know what they are going to eat, where is the next meal coming from," Borrell said.

"And I am happy to announce that this year, the European Commission is pledging over €3 billion. This builds on the pledge made at last year's Conference of €560 million for this year and adding an extra one billion to it. And we are pledging the same total amount -- €1.56 billion - for 2023," he said.

"This funding will cover the needs of the refugees, within and outside Syria, and support the [neighbouring countries in the] region that so generously hosted them for more than a decade now. For more than ten years, the neighbouring countries have been hosting these refugees. And it will also support early recovery and resilience -- helping Syrians to rebuild their lives," he said.

No reconstruction funds without power transition

The EU's foreign policy chief added that Brussels was standing firm on its decision about not funding reconstruction in Syria until there is a "true" transition of power. He said that the EU was supporting UN efforts to create a push for political reforms but that the time had not yet come to normalise relations with the Syrian government.

He noted that, in the interest of Syrians, it was necessary to maintain pressure on the Assad regime. Assad is supported by both Russia and Iran, which he visited in recent days. He also recently travelled to the UAE, his first official trip to another Arab country since the conflict began in 2011.

 

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