Saudi Arabia leads Syria aid push as carnage continues (Arab News, 31/01/2013)

Gulf states answered UN calls to boost humanitarian aid for Syria with $ 900 million in pledges yesterday even as more refugees poured into Jordan and its leader warned resources were strained to the limit. The Gulf promises at a donors’ conference hosted by Kuwait — added to earlier relief fund increases by the US and European Union pushed close to the UN’s appeal for at least $ 1.5 billion in immediate aid.

The conference opened with a pledge worth $ 300 million from Kuwait, followed by similar promises from the Kingdom and the UAE. Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who headed the Kingdom’s delegation, said the Kingdom announced $ 345 million as relief aid to the Syrian people. Of this amount, he said $ 125 million had already been spent in coordination with a number of UN agencies. The Kingdom will release SR 220 million more — the remaining amount, in collaboration with Syria’s neighboring countries and the UN, said the minister.

The aid included tents, food, medicine and medical supplies in addition to 2,500 prefabricated houses. He said $ 100 million aid was announced recently for humanitarian assistance in kind. Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah told the meeting that horrifying reports of violence had raised questions about Syria’s future and relief efforts had to be redoubled. Sixty participants at the gathering included Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Tunisia, US, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and a number of European countries.

Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said that « the door is open for countries that have not donated to do so. »But relief groups say that converting promises into hard cash can take much time, and one of them said on Tueday that aid now reaching Syria was not being distributed fairly, with almost all of it going to government-controlled areas. King Abdallah of Jordan told the gathering that Syrians had taken refuge in his country in their hundreds of thousands but Amman’s ability to help was at its limits.

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