London conference closes with €9 billion in pledges for Syria and region

Donald Tusk and David Cameron at the London donor's conference. [European Council]

UK Prime minister David Cameron said the London conference for supporting Syria and the region raised more than $10 billion (€9 billion) – the largest amount of money ever raised in one day in response to a humanitarian crisis.

The Supporting Syria and the Region conference gathered more than 60 countries, including 30 world leaders.

Britain, Germany and Norway hosted the conference in London, along with the United Nations and Kuwait.

>>Read: Britain pledges extra €1.6 billion for Syria before donor conference

“The situation in Syria is a close to hell as we are likely to find on this earth,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Cameron said the conference received pledges approaching $6bn for 2016 alone, and a further $5bn over the longer term to 2020. “It means millions of people will now receive life-saving food medical care and shelter in Syria and beyond,” said the prime minister.

The UK pledged an extra $1.7bn until 2020, Germany committed to $2.6bn until 2018, France said it would give $1bn and the US pledged an extra $925m for 2016.

Australia, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Japan, the UAE, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia, Denmark and Finland also committed funds.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU would commit €3bn this year and intended to “maintain this level of financing” for 2017 and beyond.

“Since the start of the conflict, the European Union has spent €5 billion helping to manage this crisis. Last year, the European Union exceeded its commitment to give an additional €1 billion to the region. We now stand ready to offer more help,” Tusk said.

Poland’s former premier said the European Investment Bank would also “play its part”, offering to lend as much as €23bn “for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa”.

The $9bn which was sought are made up of a UN appeal for $7.7bn and about $1.3bn requested by regional host governments.

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu accused the Assad regime of ethnic cleansing. He said 30,000 Syrians are fleeing camps between Aleppo and Turkey because of Russian airstrikes. “This is ethnic cleansing and a war crime,” he said.

“In supporting our refugee response, you will not only be addressing the urgent needs of millions, you will be helping my country continue to do the right thing – fulfilling a critical role in our region and staying strong for the world.” King Abdullah II of Jordan told the audience. Jordan is one of the countries hardest-hit by the crisis gripping Syria.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said the EU-Turkey joint action plan, and the refugee facility, have just been activated. Indeed, on 3 February the EU approved a €3 billion fund for Turkey to help refugees and migrants in the country in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them venture out towards Europe.

>>Read: EU approves €3 billion migration fund for Turkey

“We’re working closely with Lebanon and Jordan on what we call the European Union compacts, which are plans that won’t just ease the living conditions of the refugees. They will also support the economic and social resilience of Lebanon and Jordan in these very difficult times,” Mogherini said.

UN-brokered peace talks with the Syrian government and opposition have been suspended until 25 February amid concern about continuing airstrikes. Bashar al-Assad’s opponents say that UN resolution 2254, mandating the talks, requires an end to airstrikes and humanitarian relief for suffering civilians.

Ban Ki-Moon accused Syria’s Assad regime of undermining the suspended Geneva peace talks by a sudden increase in aerial bombing and military activity in the country.

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