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International donors pledge $7 billion aid for Syria in 2019: EU

Women and children evacuated from the Islamic State group's embattled holdout of Baghouz arrive at a screening area held by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces
Bulent KILIC (AFP)

International donors pledged nearly $7 billion in aid for 2019 for civilians caught up in Syria's bloody civil war, the EU said Thursday, but the total fell short of what the UN says is needed.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides announced the total at the end of a three-day conference in Brussels, on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the start of the conflict.

The European Union led the pledges with two billion euros, but the conference failed to drum up the $9 billion the United Nations said was needed to help the millions of Syrians forced to flee the country as well as those facing a humanitarian crisis at home.

Despite the shortfall, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said he was "very pleased with the outcome" but stressed that only a political solution could end the misery endured by Syrians as a result of the war.

Before the conference the UN estimated that $5.5 billion (4.4 billion euros) are needed to help the approximately 5.6 million Syrians forced to flee their country, most to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

A further $3.3 billion is needed for populations inside Syria facing a humanitarian situation described by the Medecins du Monde aid agency as "unsustainable".

Germany pledged 1.44 billion euros, Washington almost $400 million and Britain some £400 million (464 million euros).

(SANA via AP)

Russia and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad's backers in the Syrian war, have both said they are willing to help rebuild the country. 

Although Islamic State (IS) and the Syrian rebels have largely been defeated by Assad's forces, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed a willingness to let the United Nations assist with a political solution. 

The newly appointed UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, met with Muallem in Beirut in January, where they had a "constructive meeting".

During the meeting, Pedersen stressed the need for a "Syrian-led and -owned political solution facilitated by the UN". 

Muallem expressed Syria's "readiness to cooperate with him... in his mission to facilitate Syrian-Syrian dialogue with the objective of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis", a foreign ministry statement said.

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