Donors to Syrians: More aid, but still no arms

Men — one carrying firearm — run in the streets of Idlib, Syria in February 2012. Photo by: Nasser Nouri / CC BY-NC-SA

At a just-concluded meeting in Rome of members of the Friends of Syria group, Germany pledged €5 million ($6.6 million) in humanitarian aid, the European Union amended its arms embargo and the United States announced nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition.

The pledges fell short of the opposition’s expectations they were hoping donors would finally provide them with weapons and other military equipment.

“We would have wished to receive a means with which to protect the innocent civilians dying from the regime’s warplanes and scud missiles, but unfortunately, that was not even on the table,” Syrian National Coalition Spokesman Walid al-Bunni told The Associated Press.

Still, this is the first time the United States is providing direct aid to the rebels.

A “significant portion” of the United States’ $60 million assistance is meant to strengthen the opposition’s organizational capacity and help provide basic services to rebel-controlled areas. The Syrian regime has not allowed aid agencies to provide cross-border humanitarian operations, particularly in the country’s north.

The assistance will also include medical supplies and food aid to rebel fighters. The European Union, meanwhile, now allows member states to provide rebels with defensive military equipment such as armored vehicles as well as technical assistance.

“Different countries are choosing to do different things,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press briefing following the meeting. “I am absolutely confident from what I heard in there from other foreign ministers that the totality of this effort is going to have an impact on the ability of the Syrian opposition to accomplish its goals.”

Some analysts thought otherwise.

“This kind of support is not going to have a great impact with regard to the situation on the ground,” Brookings Doha Center’s Salman Shaikh said, Agence France-Presse reports.

Part of the humanitarian aid from Germany will be channeled through the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria and a number of German nongovernmental organizations in affected neighboring countries. When the money will be available, though, remains unclear. U.N. agencies and aid organizations have yet to see the bulk of the more than $1.5 billion donor pledges at a major conference in Kuwait last month.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.