UN, EU call for return to Syria peace talks

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Eight years into the conflict, more than 13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance and around a quarter of the population is displaced in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, according to the United Nations. The shortfall prompted United Nations agencies to say some programmes may need to be cut.

The pledges came despite warnings from the UN's refugee agency that the majority of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon were living below the poverty line and unable to pay for basic education and medical needs. Still, he said that given the funds available the organization would have to save it for the most desperate cases.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy to Syria, warned on Tuesday of a looming new crisis among the 2.5 population of Idlib in the country's northwest, following the fall of eastern Ghouta to regime forces.

More than 700,000 people have been forced from their homes since the start of this year, as the Assad government steps up its offensive against rebel forces, intensifying the humanitarian crisis.

The INGOs representative welcomed the intention outlined in the conference's final document to open more sectors to Syrian refugees and increase women's participation, stressing that "further flexibility, including entrepreneurship opportunities for Syrians is neither a burden nor a competition for Jordanians, but an opportunity to boost the economy, capitalise on generated revenues and further formalise the job market".

"I think that's a drawback of this conference", he said.

Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, told the conference that the plight of Syrians was getting worse.

The UN says a total of over $9bn is needed this year for humanitarian work inside Syria and to support refugees in neighbouring countries.

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"The bitter truth is that despite all our combined efforts conditions have deteriorated. On the contrary", he told a joint news conference with the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

With nearly 400,000 people displaced since mid-December and tens of thousands pouring in from other regions, Idlib has also been hit by air strikes in recent weeks as fighting continues, Mueller said.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono has called for the creation of an global framework that will extend aid to Syria in a sustainable manner.

"We all know that what we do on a humanitarian basis is only the sticking plaster on the wound".

Mogherini underlined that the European Union - along with many around the table Wednesday - refuses to help rebuild Syria until meaningful peace moves to end the conflict resume in Geneva.

"We need a political path to try and avoid Syria becoming a black hole".

"We must not let down the people of Syria", Stylianides said, adding that the meeting's number one priority was a political solution in support of the UN-led talks in Geneva and the transition to a peaceful, democratic, and stable Syria.

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