Syria conflict: Neighbours plead for international help

Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, Iraq, 22 September 2013 Countries bordering Syria have seen vast numbers of refugee arrivals

Syria's neighbours have asked donors for support in dealing with the huge influx of refugees at a meeting in Geneva.

Foreign ministers from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq presented reports at the meeting, hosted by the UN.

More than two million Syrians have fled the conflict in their country, and many more have been displaced internally.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he would comply with a plan to rid his country of chemical weapons.

"Of course we have to comply. This is our history. We have to comply with every treaty we sign,'' he told Italy's RAI News 24.

On Friday, the UN Security Council passed a binding resolution to eliminate Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons by mid-2014.

Assad: "Of course we have to comply. This is our history to comply with every treaty we sign"

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is tasked with implementing the plan, left for Syria on Monday.

Start Quote

"Syria has been burning for too long”

End Quote Antonio Guterres UNHCR chief

A separate team of inspectors, from the UN, has been investigating allegations of chemical weapons attacks and left Syria after concluding its work there.

These include an attack on 21 August in Damascus that left hundreds dead and triggered a threat of international military action against Mr Assad's forces.

At the United Nations in New York, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused "well-known" countries of backing "terrorists" fighting the Syrian government and of threatening "blatant military aggression outside the mandate of the Security Council".

He said Syria had "repeatedly embraced" a political solution, and would co-operate with the OPCW - but added that outside states which he accused of supplying chemical weapons to Syrian rebels had to abide by their commitments as well.

"Any political solution in light of the continued support of terrorism, whether through supplying arms, funding or training, is mere illusion and misleading," he said.

Struggling to cope

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has been warning that the number of Syrian refugees is threatening the political and social cohesion of the whole region.

"Syria has been burning for too long," UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said as he opened the Geneva meeting. "This burden is far too heavy to be borne by only the neighbouring countries."

He said the international community should put in place more robust measures to share the burden of sheltering "an unrelenting flood of Syrian refugees" with Syria's neighbours.

Zaatari camp over time

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the arrival of more than 240,000 Syrian refugees since mid-September in Iraqi Kurdistan "had created a substantial burden on available resources and local economies".

The number of refugees might reach 350,000 by the end of 2013, he continued, and as winter approaches, "we require increased support from the international community".

Jordan's Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, said pressure on resources and public services were reaching "unbearable levels" and that the cost the Jordanians were paying as a result of this crisis was "unprecedented".

"The host communities' resilience has been undermined dramatically and public opinion is changing," he said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the international community had "fallen short" in its response to the humanitarian crisis and "failed to provide an effective humanitarian response to put an end to this senseless violence".

Where Syrian refugees are

  • 716,000 in Lebanon
  • 515,000 in Jordan
  • 460,000 in Turkey
  • 169,000 in Iraq
  • 111,000 in Egypt
  • 4.25 million others displaced inside Syria

( Source UNHCR)

Lebanon does not have the money, housing, schools or hospitals to cope, while Jordan and Turkey, with some 500,000 refugees each, are believed to have spent at least $2bn (£1.25bn) caring for them, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.

In an attempt to prevent Syria's neighbours closing their borders, traditional donors are being asked financial support and offers to host some of the most vulnerable refugees, she says.

But the UN's $4.4bn appeal for Syrian refugees is only 50% funded, and there has been little response to appeals for Western states to resettle Syrians.

Britain and the US have not committed to accepting any so far, Germany will take 5,000, Austria 500.

Earlier, UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said the agency would appeal "for more support for the host countries including direct budget support but also of course aid in areas like provision of health care, education, infrastructure and other projects".

"For many of these countries such as for small Lebanon and Jordan, the influx of Syrian refugees represents a huge proportion of those countries' current population," he told the BBC.

Unrest in Syria began in March 2011, developing into a conflict in which more than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Intervention...NO! Humanitarian aid to refugees...Yes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Since Russia and China have perpetuated this war, i think they should be on the hook for the vast majority of relief aid. However the opposite is true the US. by far has been the majority provider with a whopping 25-30% of donations. Russia and China add up to near a whopping 4%.
    If i was the US. i would subtract this amount and more from anything owed to China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Some have commented that these countries that have taken refugees are poor as well? Perhaps they are but a lot of their neighbours who are funding half the problems in the world are certainly not. If they want a helping hand let them get it from those who at least share their own religions and dislike of the West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    While the UN and World Governments argue about their points of view and position themselves accordingly, the death and maiming of 'the innocents' follows its repetitive course and the slaughter increases every hour unabated by the weak words of condemnation. The Incomprehensible reality of the World's indifference and shameful inaction in stopping this tragedy from continuing is simply wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    double standards again in the middle east, in fury at western involvement but not too shy too hold out one hand begging for cash whilst tightly gripping there own bulging wallets. Qatar aren't as afraid to splash the cash when it comes to bidding and hosting a world cup. We have our wrongs here too yes but the moral compass of most in the ME is truly off kilter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    The complete, naked, utter truth is: that what is going on in the Middle East is hyper - super dumb violent madness and idiocy. No other nations on earth can reason with the middle east. Our sympathies for the innocents, women and children, but surely we can't fix it. TRY TO FIX YOURSELVES A BIT, then ask others for help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Excuse me, they 'require' support? No. This is nothing to do with us - let the Middle East sort itself out for once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Is it any wonder western states are reluctant to take refugees, about time this Islamic amah they keep on about came into play, after all they have all the money

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    277.The Rockabilly Red
    "trust" in the same semtence as "Cameron, Hague, Clegg, and Milliband"?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Syria should cover the cost of its own displaced people (refugees) we must cover the cost for now however the cost of the displaced people must be paid for by Assad's regime!

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Stop giving guns and bullets to the so called Rebels then the Peace talks could start . But WHO are the rebels ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    This Civil War is not caused by normal civilians but by politicians who want to be in power or change the present power holder.

    The USA seems bent on doing a similar self destruct with their mode of government -

    Will US civilians view the Syrian problem as similar to their own when also living in tents and on rations? Self inflicted suffering!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Just when are the arab nations, muslims, extremists or whatever they want to call themselves actually going to do anything.....about any of this.....never....they want the stupid west to interfere as thats all part of the master plan.....ooops another conspiracy theory...or is it

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    287.Pancha Chandra
    It will be a long time before the neighbouring state with security council protection gets rid of any of its weapons of mass destruction or joins any of the treaties governing them. Grow up both sides are unpleasant war is nasty if you have had to fight in one you would know that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    would be interesting to see if Syria's neighbor Israel had taken just one refugee

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.


    Yes it was SIF (and specifically Ahrah Al Sham) I had in mind when I said that there were some extremists* that were fighting but solely in regards to Syria rather than Al Qaeda esque Caliphate stuff.

    *they are hardliners fighting for an Islamic State. However there are large differences between them and JAN in ideology and tactics. A few good articles if you google Ahrar Al Sham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    "Why do our government & the media keep trying to drag us into this Arab sectarian war?"

    Dunno but it's neither Arab nor sectarian, there's the first lie. Might want to start there. Also the government is trying *far* too hard to keep us out of it - which we'll pay for later when there's an Islamic State of Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Why cant Saudi pay for it seeing as their country is funding the Islamic extremist Sunni rebellion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Syrians are mot Arabs, the middle east is very complex, applying western values to the area doesn't work. These people are not savages. In fact they had advanced cultures when we were still fairly primitive. The west and the former USSR armed and mentored some of the worst people in the region and now act like innocent bystanders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    The threat of force brought a cringing Syria to disclose its chemical arsenal. But how many episodes will the Security Council have to go through before there is substantial progress? The wily Syrian leadership with Russian connivance will never play open cards. There is bound to be a serious hitch with regard to the verification of Syria's chemical arsenal and its ultimate destruction! Disgusting


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