Brussels conference to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

Brussels conference to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

Brussels: The EU and UN on Tuesday begin a two-day conference to drum up fresh aid pledges for war-torn Syria and reinvigorate the faltering Geneva peace process as the conflict enters its eighth year.
Donor countries, aid organisations and UN agencies will gather in Brussels for the seventh annual conference on Syria’s future as international inspectors probe a suspected gas attack in the town of Douma, highlighting the brutal nature of the war.
The meeting comes in the wake of strikes by the United States, France and Britain on Syrian military installations, carried out in response to the Douma incident which has been widely blamed on Damascus.
EU officials hope to beat the $6 billion (5.6 billion euros) pledged at last year’s gathering, as a fierce offensive launched by Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, backed by key ally Russia, intensifies the crisis.
Rebuilding infrastructure, helping refugees
This, the third annual conference after London in 2016 and then in Brussels last year, could help return some electricity and water to cities heavily damaged in the West’s campaign to push out militants.
But the majority is likely to go to help the refugees outside Syria and the millions displaced within, including some 160,000 people who fled a bombing campaign by Syrian ally Russia in eastern Ghouta near Damascus over the past six weeks.
Rebuilding destroyed cities such as Aleppo is likely to take billions more dollars, however, and cannot start until powers involved in the proxy war back a peaceful transition away from the rule of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, the EU says.
Some of the biggest aid donors include the European Union, the United States, Norway and Japan.
Who will attend?
Governments are also expected to send senior ministers, with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag confirmed and, possibly, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif due, EU officials said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been invited, but it is not clear he will attend.
The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who met Lavrov in Moscow on April 20, is also expected in Brussels.
Last year’s absence of top-level officials from Russia, Turkey and the United States, as well as a chemical attack in Syria, overshadowed the conference’s efforts to help end the conflict.
This time, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini is appealing to the trio of Iran, Russia and Turkey – the key powers in the context of Syria war – to support a lasting ceasefire to allow aid access and medical evacuations.