Ban: Situation in Syria close to hell on earth

2016-02-04 19:39
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the 'Supporting Syria and the Region' conference in London. (Dan Kitwood, AP)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the 'Supporting Syria and the Region' conference in London. (Dan Kitwood, AP)

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London - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the conditions in Syria as hellish, urging the international community to foster political dialogue to end the conflict, as about 70 nations met to pledge financial support to the war-torn country.

"The situation in Syria is as close to hell as we are likely to find on this earth," Ban told a donors' conference in London on Thursday, a day after peace talks on Syria in Geneva were halted by his mediator

"All sides in this conflict are committing human rights abuses of a shocking scale and depravity," Ban said earlier at the UN co-hosted "Supporting Syria and the Region" event.

"There is no military solution," Ban said. "Only political dialogue - inclusive political dialogue - will rescue the Syrian people from their intolerable suffering."

British Prime Minister David Cameron urged a "new approach" to helping millions of people caught up in the conflict, focussing on education, and job creation to help Syrians rebuild their lives in the region.

Britain, the United Nations and the three other co-hosts of the conference - Germany, Norway and Kuwait - hope participants will pledge about $9bn to help 13.5 million people in Syria and 4.4 million refugees in neighbouring states.

The largest pledge came from the European Union, which said it will allocate more than €3bn this year to help people in Syria and neighbouring countries.

EU President Donald Tusk said that "after so many years of conflict, people have lost hope. We have a moral duty to bring their hope back".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced €2.3bn in aid over the next three years, including €1.1bn in 2016, saying she wanted Thursday to be "a day of hope for the [Syrian] people."

Cameron pledged "at least an extra £1.2bn ($1.76bn) from Britain.

He said the building of stability, creation of jobs and provision of education "can provide the sense of hope needed to stop people thinking they have no option but to risk their lives on a dangerous journey to Europe".

Range of problems 

But aid agencies and rights groups warned that money alone will not address the range of problems facing millions of Syrians.

Part of the aid will focus on Syria's neighbouring countries of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which have accepted more than 4 million Syrian refugees between them.

"Today, one of every five people living in our kingdom is a Syrian refugee," Jordan's King Abdullah said, adding that the government spends about a quarter of its national budget on refugees.

"We have reached our limit," he said. "Our country will continue to do what we can do ... but it cannot be at the expense of our own people's welfare."

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he discussed "how to implement the ceasefire and also how to get access" to besieged civilians in Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.

Kerry said earlier that witnesses in besieged areas of Syria had reported seeing large numbers of "walking skeletons, people we haven't seen walking around in that condition since the concentration camps were liberated after World War II".

The United States promised about $600m in additional aid, plus $290m for the education of refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon.

Norway pledged 2.4 billion kroner ($288m) for this year, with Foreign Minister Borge Brende saying the "humanitarian needs are immense".

Read more on:    un  |  ban ki-moon  |  syria

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