UNITED NATIONS: Two million of the estimated three million Syrians that need food aren’t getting it because of the intensifying war and the government’s delay in granting visas to international humanitarian workers, the European Union’s international aid chief said yesterday.
Kristalina Georgieva called on Syria to issue more visas, and she urged the international community to put more pressure on the government and opposition to respect the laws of war — protect civilians, don’t shoot at ambulances, evacuate the wounded, allow entry for humanitarian workers, and allow safe exits for people who want to leave the country. She told reporters after meeting UNICEF’s executive director Anthony Lake that combatants in other conflicts have allowed a “humanitarian pause” to enable civilians to leave and evacuation of the wounded, but it hasn’t happened in Syria because there hasn’t been enough international pressure. “In the absence of a political solution, it is our duty to work as hard as we can to get more help to people inside Syria, more assistance to those who flee their homes,” Georgieva said.
“Today a million people out of about three million that need food assistance can get it as a result of the bravery of the humanitarian workers,” she said. “But two out of three do not get assistance because fighting has expanded” and affects more people in more parts of the country, and not enough humanitarian workers are getting visas.
“I have three members of my staff who are still waiting for permission to go there. We just need more helping hands in a crisis that is deepening,” Georgieva said.
As the war has intensified, more people are being pushed out of their homes with no place inside Syria to go so they are fleeing to neighboring countries. The government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians are displaced inside the country, and the UN says over 250,000 have become refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.
Georgieva said it’s critical to get help to Syrians inside the country because otherwise thousands more will leave the country “putting additional risk to fragile situations in neighbouring countries.”
She said the Syrian government has allowed more UN staff and eight international humanitarian organisations to help the Syrian people, along with the Syrian Red Crescent and local groups — but more aid workers are needed.
The EU just increased its funding for Syria to 190 million euros, 60 per cent for activities inside the country and 40 per cent for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, Georgieva said. With additional contributions from its 27 members, the EU is providing over 200 million euros to Syria, which represents more than 50 per cent of humanitarian contributions to the country.
Egypt trying to isolate Assad
CAIRO: Newly activist Egypt is trying to convince Iran to drop its unquestioned support of Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad in order to end that country’s civil war in exchange for help in easing Tehran’s regional isolation at a time of mounting pressure on it over its disputed nuclear programme. The offer is the centrepiece of a diplomatic push by Egypt’s new Islamist president, who is hoping his “Islamic Quartet” — grouping Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all supporters of the Syrian rebellion, with Syria’s top regional ally Iran — can succeed where other initiatives have failed. The grouping is the first major effort to involve Iran in resolving the crisis.