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Western powers pledge $10 bn as Syrian refugee problem worsens

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05 February 2016

Western powers, including the US, UK, Germany and other major European Union nations met in London and pledged billions of dollars to help conflict-hit Syrians following a breakdown of the so-called peace talks and a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebel forces supported by the US and its allies.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, supported by Russian air strikes, stepped up their offensive near the major northern city of Aleppo, forcing nearly 40,000 civilians to flee.

Member countries of the NATO, including European Union, Germany, Britain and the United States, have pledged over $10 billion (9.0 billion) to help conflict-hit Syrians - to provide food, education and job opportunities in their homeland and neighbouring countries where they have fled.

"Today's achievements are not a solution to the crisis - we still need to see a political transition," British Prime Minister David Cameron said as the conference wrapped up.

"But with today's commitments... our message to the people of Syria and the region is clear - we will stand with you and support you for as long as it takes".

Donors agreed to help create an estimated 1.1 million jobs for Syrian refugees and those living in neighbouring countries by 2018.

The conference also committed to getting 1.7 million children into education by the end of 2016-17.

Of the $10 billion aid pledged for Syrian refugees, just over half the amount will be given out this year and the rest between 2017 and 2020.

The day-long international conference was co-hosted by the UN and the governments of the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Germany and Norway.

More than half of the pledged amount is earmarked to meet immediate needs in 2016 in a country where nearly five years of war has killed over 250,000 people, sent over 4 million fleeing Syria, displaced 6.5 million internally, and put 13.5 million people inside the country in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid out three main objectives - raising $7 billion in immediate humanitarian aid, mustering long-term support, and protecting civilians.

The commitment of countries hosting large numbers of refugees to open up their labour markets is a breakthrough, he added, thanking the Governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for choosing solidarity over fear.

Despite the pledges, hopes that the package could make a major difference inside Syria were weighed down by the suspension Wednesday of peace talks in Geneva until 25 February.

The 5-year-old civil war in Syria showed no sign of ending any soon after President Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian air strikes, closed in on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, forcing thousands to flee.

Turkey said it is already hosting more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees. Jordan, Lebanon and other West Asian nations are other countries bearing the brunt of the Syrian refugee exodus.





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