UN chief presses for major boost in Syrian aid



Kuwait City: The UN chief appealed today for a major boost in international relief aid for Syria and called for the fighting to end "in the name of humanity" even as more refugees poured into neighboring Jordan and its leader warned resources were strained to the limit.

The UN's call for up to USD 1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance at an international conference in Kuwait reflects the deepening civilian crisis inside Syria and the civil war's increasing spillover around the region.

Jordan's economic council said the kingdom had spent more than USD 833 billion in aid for refugees accounting for nearly half the estimated 700,000 people who have fled Syria and that it was unable to sustain a financial burden that has so far siphoned off about 3 percent of its GDP.

Some UN officials say the refugee figures could approach 1 million later this year if the conflict in Syria does not ease.

Speaking at the UN-led gathering in Kuwait, Jordan's King Abdullah II said sheltering and assisting the refugee wave is about the country's "capacity and potenital."

"We have reached the end of the line. We have exhausted our resources," he said.

Last week, the king used the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to amplify his appeal for international help as "the weakest refugees are struggling now just to survive this year's harsh winter" and more cross the Syria-Jordan border at up to 3,000 a day.

In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged all sides "and particularly the Syrian government" to halt attacks in the 22-month-old civil war that the UN says has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

"In the name of humanity, stop the killing, stop the violence," Ban told envoys from nearly 60 nations, including Russia and Iran, key allies of Assad's regime.

Aid officials estimate that more than 2 million Syrians have been uprooted or are suffering inside the country as the civil war widens including what peace envoy Lakhard Brahimi called "unprecedented levels of horror" in an address to the U.N. Security Council after at least 65 bodies were found yesterday in a suspected execution-style killing near Aleppo.

Ban described the international humanitarian response to Syria as "very much limited" in comments to the official Kuwaiti News Agency.

Kuwait's ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, promised USD 300 million in a move that could prompt other donations from Gulf Arab allies, which are major backers of Syrian rebel factions. On Tuesday, the European Union and the U.S. Promised a total of nearly USD 400 million.

PTI