International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid for war-ravaged Syria as the UN Security Council convened yesterday for emergency talks over a suspected chemical attack that killed dozens in a rebel-held province.
At a donor conference in Brussels, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for Syria’s warring factions and government backers such as Russia and Iran to bring an end to a six-year conflict that has killed almost 400,000 people.
“Nobody is winning this war, everybody is losing,” Mr Guterres said. “It is having a detrimental and destabilising effect on the entire region and it is providing a focus that is feeding the new threat of global terrorism.”
Nearly half the Syrian population has been displaced by the violence, with millions seeking sanctuary in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, or heading further west to Europe.
UN agencies estimate war damage across Syria so far at $350 billion (£280bn), including physical destruction and the loss of economic activity. Four out of five people are living in poverty.
“Behind these figures lies a gradual draining of hope and a turn toward despair that we must reverse,” Mr Guterres said.
The conference began just a day after at least 75 people, including 11 children, were reported killed in a suspected chemical attack. It remains unclear who is responsible, but suspicions has fallen on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“The world should not be shocked because it’s letting such a regime do what it is doing.
“What should shock us is the increase of children dying and that the whole world is watching,” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said.
Mr Hariri said Lebanon has been overwhelmed by the arrival of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees and “cannot sustain this issue any more. The international community has to do something”.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel noted that with the European Union divided over the refugee emergency, the bloc has failed to share responsibility for even a quarter of the 160,000 refugees that member countries promised to relocate from Italy and Greece.
By contrast, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are shining examples, he said.
“They’ve taken in an unbelievable number of refugees and they are relatively poor countries,” Mr Gabriel said.
“Sometimes I’m ashamed looking at the European debate going on.”