U.S. President Barack Obama announced fresh humanitarian aid for people affected by the Syrian conflict on the first day of the annual G-8 summit, but failed to get Russia on the same page in terms of how to end the violence in the country.
The assistance —$300 million in total — will provide food, medical care, clean water and other basic relief supplies for people displaced by the fighting inside Syria, and those forced to flee to neighboring countries. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced new pledges worth $115 million Canadian dollars ($112.6 million).
Support from both donors will be channeled through U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations, though part of Canada’s aid (25 million Canadian dollars) will go to the governments of Jordan and Lebanon, which have voiced the burden brought on by the Syrian crisis.
The aid comes as leaders remain struggling to find a common position on ending the Syrian conflict, a goal that many aid groups are hoping to get done at the summit in Northern Ireland.
“The leaders should prioritise the pursuit of a political solution […] The promised Geneva peace conference offers an important glimmer of hope on the diplomatic horizon to end the suffering [of the Syrian people],” Oxfam America President Ray Offenheiser said in a statement.
World Vision Policy Advisor for Conflicts and Disasters Nathaniel Hurd meanwhile commented: “It’s time for G-8 leaders to act urgently and responsibly. Millions of Syrians remain vulnerable, the international response to humanitarian needs has been inadequate, and efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict have so far lacked urgency and support.”
As of Monday, however, that hope seems far from materializing.
“We do have differing perspectives on the problem but we share an interest in reducing the violence, securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they’re neither used nor are they subject to proliferation,” Obama noted following bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States announced last week its readiness to arm the Syrian opposition, particularly after reports of the Syrian regime using chemical weapons against the rebels.
Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rejects the idea.
In the same press conference, Putin said: “Our positions do not fully coincide, but we are united by the common intention to end the violence, to stop the number of victims increasing in Syria, to resolve the problems by peaceful means, including the Geneva talks.”
The G-8 leaders are expected to release a statement on Syria on Tuesday.
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