Global donors to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

Children react during a media tour in Douma near Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Global donors to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

  • The $6-billion target is similar to the amount raised last year
  • Rebuilding destroyed cities such as Aleppo is likely to take billions more dollars

BRUSSELS: Governments will seek more than $6 billion in aid for Syria at a two-day donor conference from Tuesday, which the European Union hopes will also offer Russia, Turkey and Iran a chance to renew peace efforts.
As the conflict enters its eighth devastating year, Brussels has invited some 85 governments and non-governmental agencies to raise funds for humanitarian aid, limited reconstruction and de-mining of shattered cities.
“Funding the aid response is critical,” said Robert Beer at aid agency CARE International. “But funding is only part of the picture — the systematic and deliberate blocking of aid inside Syria must end, and aid workers must be granted unimpeded access to civilians,” he said in a statement.
This, the third annual conference after London in 2016 and then in Brussels last year, could help return some electricity and water to cities heavily damaged in the West’s campaign to push out Islamic militants.
But the majority is likely to go to help the refugees outside Syria and the millions displaced within, including some 160,000 people who fled a bombing campaign by Syrian ally Russia in eastern Ghouta near Damascus over the past six weeks.
The $6-billion target is similar to the amount raised last year, but officials say they want to go beyond that level now.
Rebuilding destroyed cities such as Aleppo is likely to take billions more dollars, however, and cannot start until powers involved in the proxy war back a peaceful transition away from the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the EU says.
Some of the biggest aid donors include the European Union, the United States, Norway and Japan.
Governments are also expected to send senior ministers, with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag confirmed and, possibly, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif due, EU officials said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been invited, but it is not clear he will attend. The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who met Lavrov in Moscow on April 20, is also expected in Brussels.
Last year’s absence of top-level officials from Russia, Turkey and the United States, as well as a chemical attack in Syria, overshadowed the conference’s efforts to help end the conflict between anti-Assad rebels, Islamist militants, Syrian troops and foreign forces.
This time, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini is appealing to the trio of Iran, Russia and Turkey — the key powers with direct military involvement in the war — to support a lasting cease-fire to allow aid access and medical evacuations.
Mogherini wrote to the three last February to demand a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire. That has not seen a response as yet, said an EU official involved in Syria policy.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Syrian regime forces were killed fighting Daesh in a devastated southern district of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Monday.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad ramped up their ground operations and bombing raids against the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in southern Damascus last Thursday.


Egypt says plane hijacker extradited from Cyprus

Updated 40 min 51 sec ago
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Egypt says plane hijacker extradited from Cyprus

  • Police said Seif Eddin Mustafa, escorted by Egyptian authorities, boarded an EgyptAir flight to Cairo on Saturday evening
  • Seif Eddin Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir flight in March 2016 using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus: An Egyptian man who hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight in 2016 and ordered it to land in Cyprus to allegedly protest Egypt’s military-backed government has been extradited to his homeland after giving up a drawn-out legal fight, authorities said Sunday.
Police said Seif Eddin Mustafa, escorted by Egyptian authorities, boarded an EgyptAir flight to Cairo on Saturday evening.
Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told The Associated Press that Mustafa’s extradition went ahead after he dropped a three-year court battle to avoid extradition.
Doros Polycarpou, with the migrant support group KISA that assisted Mustafa, told the AP that the 62-year-old decided of his own accord to return to Egypt and face prosecution there, despite fears that he may be tortured.
Polycarpou said Mustafa told his legal team he was willing “to take the risk” of suffering maltreatment at the hands of Egyptian authorities because he could “no longer take” his holding conditions in Cyprus’ prison complex.
He said Mustafa had complained that he was being held in “isolation” and put under “psychological strain” because authorities kept him away from the prison’s general population.
Mustafa’s change-of-heart stands in stark contrast to his vociferous fight against extradition to Egypt on the grounds that he could face torture or an unfair trial there.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights blocked Cyprus from extraditing Mustafa until it could rule on whether doing so would violate its prohibition about returning individuals to countries where they may face torture or inhuman treatment.
Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir flight in March 2016 using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. A six-hour standoff with Cypriot authorities on the tarmac of Cyprus’ Larnaca airport ended peacefully after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mustafa was arrested.
Mustafa told a Cypriot court that he meant no harm to anyone. He said he was trying to expose what he called the “fascist regime” of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and to help secure the release of 63 female dissidents being held in Egyptian prisons.
But prosecutors said Mustafa admitted in a written statement to police that he only carried out the hijacking in order to reunite with his Cypriot family.