Brussels, London – The Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the region concluded on Wednesday, with international pledges that are expected to surpass $11 billion in aid.
The two-day conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and other countries and organizations, and the participation of 70 states, as well as international and regional institutions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres drew attention to the plight of Syrians in the war-ravaged country and urged the international community to increase support to both people within Syria as well as to the millions seeking refuge beyond its borders and for the communities hosting them.
“The need for humanitarian aid and the protection of Syrian civilians has never been greater [and] the humanitarian appeal for a single crisis has never been higher,” Guterres said at the opening session of the conference.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, for his part, urged donors to “invest in peace”.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the current situation in Lebanon is a ticking time-bomb,” he told the conference.
He said that Lebanon has been overwhelmed by the arrival of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees and “cannot sustain this issue anymore. The international community has to do something.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced some $1.2 billion in new funding at the conference, but he underlined that money could not be used on rebuilding Syrian infrastructure unless and until Bashar Assad is no longer in power.
“Whatever we do, however important the fight against ISIS may be, for us as Germans it’s crystal clear there cannot exist any cooperation with those who are responsible for these war crimes,” he said, as quoted by Germany’s official news agency.
EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini admitted it was “surreal especially today” to be discussing the “post-conflict situation”.
“But if you want peace you have to start building peace and the conditions for peace,” she said, urging a “strong push to the political talks in Geneva.”
Mogherini also praised efforts exerted by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to find a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian crisis.